to the history page on this rainy, rainy weekend. Unfortunately, the inclement
weather has ruined the outdoor festivities planned for Sant Miquel's patron saint
day, but I suppose we can't be choosy about Mother Nature's timing. Even though
the fiesta has been rained out, we can still pay homage to the venerable history
of this small northern village, here at the LiveIbiza website.
The municipality of Sant Miquel is historically significant
in that it was one of the four original spots chosen by the Catalan conquistadors
to be furnished with a church and therefore, a fortress. Because of the ferocious
pirate attacks that for centuries plagued the island, to be awarded a church was
considered the height of good fortune by early Ibicencos. And because only four
churches were built outside the protective city walls, potential construction
sites were not chosen at random, but rather hand-picked after careful deliberation
as to the merits and/or demerits of a given place.
As fate would have it, Sant Miquel was graced with a convincing
combination of attributes. It possessed a strategic high hill upon which to build
a house of worship (really no more than a chapel in its original state) so that
both sea and land could be surveyed for intruders. As in Santa Eulalia, this hill
was called Puig de Missa or 'Hill of Mass'. At the foot of the hill lay the fertile
plain, Pla Roig, which was, and still is, one of the most productive agricultural
areas on the island. A little way off, a verdant valley, bathed by the now dry
stream, s'Assut d'es Celleràs, extended down to the sea where there was
a small port.
Since long before the church was raised
and for many centuries afterwards, the water in the stream flowed with enough
force to power the Moorish water mills that stood on its banks. This state-of-the-art
technology granted a certain superiority to the area and ensured the continuity
of its sizeable pre-Conquest population. What more could the ecclesiastic authorities
ask for as collateral for their investment than easy defensibility, bountiful
lands and a substantial flock of worshippers?
It should be clarified that Sant Miquel did not become
known as such until the 14th century, nor was there any town centre to speak of
until the 18th century, as the area carried on in a strictly agrarian vein even
after the church was built. The aforementioned conjunction of hill, stream, valley
and port was simply one of the véndes within a vast Moorish farmstead,
all of which belonged to the powerful Balansat clan. The Quartó de Balansat,
as it was then called, consisted of four véndes: 1) Es Port, the port and
surrounding valley; 2) Rubió, a tract of land to the Northwest; 3) Albarca,
today Sant Mateu; and 4) Corona, today Santa Agnès. Not until the church
was built in the 14th century did the name Sant Miquel come to designate the area.
Naturally, our annals would not be complete if they did
not include some of the dissension that revolved around the Sant Miquel church.
With the passage of
time, the larger véndes were divided and sold off to smaller landowners.
The present day area of Benirràs is a case n point. When it became independent
from its alma mater, the vénda of Labritja (then part of Santa Eulàlia)
the religious authorities decided - as a favour not an imposition - that the inhabitants
of Benirràs should change churches and attend mass in Sant Miquel rather
than Santa Eulália. This re-zoning caused uproar of considerable magnitude.
The angry voices of those affected were not silenced until it was agreed that
any and all who so desired could still make use of the Santa Eulàlia house
of worship. Curiously, no evidence exists to substantiate that any Benirrassian
ever exercised this right. One look at a map will explain why: Sant Miquel was
too temptingly near to have to make the long trek, by foot or beast, every Sunday
to Santa Eulàlia.
Dissension - Part II
After several centuries and a population explosion - there were an estimated
10,000 inhabitants living in Ibiza in 1700 - it became clear that the island needed
more than four rural churches. Hence, two more were built, one in Sant Josep and
one in Sant Joan (formerly Labritja) from whence hailed the feisty breed of Benirrassians.
At this point, it was decided that Benirràs would once more change allegiance
and form part of the new vicarage in Sant Joan. Again angry voices were raised,
this time in favour of Sant Miquel, not in contra.
most important families of Benirras, namely the Escandells and the Roigs, opposed
the changeover noisily, claiming that their passage to Sant Joan would be impeded
in winter by several flooded torrents, while the roads to Sant Miquel would be
clear all year round. It is not to be overlooked that these families had contributed
generously to the enlargement of their small church in the latter 17th century
(note the Benirràs chapel in the present-day church of Sant Miquel). It
was not fair that they be deprived of the fruits of their labour and donations.
Also, pure logic was on their side for, distance-wise, Benirràs was still
closer to Sant Miquel than to any other church.
Therefore, in 1785, when the islands official parochial boundaries
were drawn, it was decided that Benirràs would be permanently incorporated
into the parish of Sant Miquel. To compensate this gain, the parish was obliged
to forfeit the vénda of Corona to Sant Antoni. Well, a deal is a deal.
All seemed happy enough with the outcome so don't fret - but DO enjoy the fiesta,