Sunday, September 07, 2014

Mallorca Day Or The Day Of Our Lady Of Lluc

On 12 September, 1276, Jaume II was crowned King of Mallorca. The coronation was important for two reasons. Jaume became the first true king, and in assuming the crown he signed the Carta de Franqueses i Privilegis, which bestowed rights, exemptions and privileges on the people of the new kingdom. This coming Friday - 12 September - is Mallorca Day. The reason why is clear. It was the day of Jaume II's coronation and the day that the kingdom was properly established. A day to celebrate, therefore. However, not everyone does. Indeed, Mallorca Day is ignored by a large number of Mallorcans. They don't agree that 12 September should be Mallorca Day.

There hadn't been a Mallorca Day until 1997. It was a celebration which, so the critics say, was "invented", and the person who invented it was the then president of the Council of Mallorca, Maria Antonia Munar. The Council still states that 12 September was chosen because it "created our personality as a people and as a community that is rooted in a rich and unique past". The problem with the choice of 12 September was, and it remains a date that is contentious with many, that it neglected the counter claim of a different date, i.e. 31 December. On that day in 1229, Jaume I took the city of Palma, and the conquest of Mallorca by the Catalan and Aragon forces was all but complete. It is a day which has its own celebration, the Fiesta of the Standard, and if there is to be a Mallorca Day, 31 December is the day that many would prefer.

There is, inevitably, a large chunk of politics behind all this. The 1276 date can be taken as the day when a Mallorcan nationalism was born. It is thus a date which appeals to certain nationalist elements and also to elements on the right. The 1229 date, on the other hand, appeals to a different type of nationalist, the one who considers Mallorca to be a product of Catalanism and part of the somewhat mythical Catalan Lands, and to a more general acknowledgement that 31 December, 1229 was the date when the Islam occupation of Mallorca ended and the island's Catalan culture started.

If you are expecting there to be huge celebrations this coming Friday, you will be disappointed. In Palma there will be the laying of a floral tribute at the tomb of Jaume II at the Cathedral. There will also be a dance by giants in front of the Council's building. Otherwise, there will be open days (which are more like open few hours in most instances) at the Council itself, at three museums and at the Raixa finca in Bunyola, while in the evening there will be an awards ceremony at Palma's Teatre Principal. On Saturday and Sunday, there will be other similar events, but generally speaking the celebrations are low-key.

On the night of next Saturday (13 September), there is another event which loosely forms part of the extended Mallorca Day celebrations. It is the walk to Lluc by people from towns and villages across Mallorca, the "Pujada a Lluc a peu de la Part Forana", which, for most participants, will involve setting off from Inca at 4am on the morning of the fourteenth of September. The date for the walk does vary, so that it can fall during a weekend, but 12 September holds the key as to why it occurs. 

This Friday is the fiesta of the Mother of God of Lluc. 12 September, therefore, has a significance for the people of Mallorca which is very different to that of Jaume II and the founding of the kingdom. Lluc is the spiritual centre of the island, and the image of the Virgin Mary, "La Moreneta" or the Black Madonna, is about as revered as religious icons can get on the island. There is, naturally enough, a whole legend that surrounds the statue. Around the year 1250, so the story goes, a boy called Lluc (aka Lucas, aka Luke), who was the son of Muslims who had converted to Catholicism, was attracted by a light when out tending his father's goat and sheep herds. The boy found a statue and handed it in to the local priest who placed it in the then small church. The statue wasn't having any of this, though, and mysteriously found its way back to where it had been found. This was taken as a sign that the Virgin preferred to stay where she had been, and so, respecting her wishes, they built what was to become the monastery.

Though of course only an item of iconography, albeit an important one, the Madonna assumed such significance that Our Lady of Lluc, the Virgin of Lluc, became Mallorca's patron saint. And she still is.

As for the arguments surrounding Mallorca Day, if it was ever going to have been 12 September, then perhaps there was a less contentious reason for it being so. And it resides in Lluc's monastery.

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