Monday, July 25, 2016

The Miracle Of Alcudia's Sant Crist

Places of religious and historical significance exist in the most unlikely of locations in Mallorca. One of the oldest, if not the oldest example of human civilisation is surrounded by warehouses and other commercial buildings on the industrial estate in Can Picafort: this is the dolmen burial chamber of Son Baulo.

Not far from Can Picafort is a cave in Alcudia. It's just off the bypass road that goes behind the Bellevue complex. On one side of the road is another industrial estate and the chimney of the Es Murterar power station. On the Bellevue side is the cave, which is no great distance from one of the limits of the distinctly irreligious, predominantly all-inclusive chaotic sprawl of an early 1970s' campus in desperate need of some attention.

The road bisects Bellevue and the mountain (some say hill, others peak) that guards the entrance to Alcudia. It's called Sant Martí. So is the cave. They hold the occasional mass in this cave: just after Easter, for example. It's an important site not least because of what happened (supposedly) 509 years ago. They're celebrating this in Alcudia on Tuesday. Not, however, that the purpose of the celebration actually occurred on 26 July 1507. That, I'm afraid, would be far too simple.

Let's go back, if we really must, to the winter of 1506-1507. If one's being honest, this was not the best time to have been visiting Mallorca. Conditions were not always hospitable. There was general lawlessness, while famine, drought, pestilence and disease were rarely far away. With something of an echo of the winter that passed earlier this year, it didn't rain that winter of 1507. There was a winter drought.

When faced with such a situation, and unable to draw on a conveniently located desalination plant on Alcudia bay (as is nowadays the case), solutions were limited. But there was always one. Pray. And so, on 24 February 1507 there was to be a procession, a pleading and begging procession. Prayers were to be offered for rain, and the object of this great request was a saint: Christ the Saint, Sant Crist.

The story goes that the wooden image of the saint was paraded from the cave at Sant Marti and was then returned there. It was upon this return that the miracle of Sant Crist occurred (allegedly). One does have to take the word of various legal eminences of the time, such as Pere Joan Zaforteza, whose family name is the one of Mallorca's oldest and most noble. There were also, naturally enough, priests and the odd high official. They all maintained that the image of Sant Crist had sweated blood and water.

As can be imagined, when news spread of the miracle, pilgrims and the sick flocked to Alcudia from other parts of Mallorca. Further miracles may or may not have occurred. But what did occur was the harvest that year. Abundant or what. The saint had saved the people of Alcudia.

Subsequently, there was to be the founding of the chapel of Sant Crist at the church of Sant Jaume and a standardising of the celebration of the miracle. What seems to have happened is that all the pilgrims who had been coming along for getting on for two centuries had led to a deterioration in the condition of the image. In 1697, therefore, a commission took a decision. On this commission was another Zaforteza, who was the canon at the Cathedral in Palma. Between its members they concluded that the celebration of Sant Crist should not only be moved to July but also be held only once every three years. In that particular year, the actual celebration was on 28 July: this was because it was a Sunday. But the date for the future would be 26 July, the feast day for Christ's grandmother, Santa Anna, and the day after the feast day for Sant Jaume, the patron of the town and its church.

Why every three years though? Well, this seems to have been because the commission also concluded that staging it every year would a) represent too much of a fiesta opportunity for the locals (given Sant Jaume was the day before) and so too much temptation to not be totally religious and that it would b) cost too much.

The procession for Sant Crist is a very solemn affair. It takes place at midday on Tuesday, when the priests taking part will be praying that it won't be too baking hot. Last time, in 2013, it was; the odd priest keeled over in the heat. But prayers may be met. On the previous occasion, in 2010, guess what? It rained. Now there's a miracle for you.

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