Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Legend And Meanings Of 12 September

Pilgrims from across Mallorca will have been arriving in Lluc from around seven this morning. The "pujada a Lluc a peu de la Part Forana" - the climb by foot to Lluc from the "foreign part" (anywhere but Palma) of Mallorca - coincides with the celebrations for Our Lady of Lluc on 12 September. It is a walk not to be confused with the one from Güell in Palma that takes place in August. The September pilgrimage has been going for an awful lot longer because of the celebrations for Our Lady. The Güell walk does, though, have some time significance in that 10 August is the date when, in 1884, the image of the Virgin and of the baby Jesus received official papal coronation.

The legend of the image - La Moreneta, the Black Madonna - is one of Mallorca's most famed legends. The story of the shepherd boy Lukas - Lluc in Catalan (not the reason why the place Lluc is called Lluc) - and the discovery of the statue has been told many, many times. That the discovery was made in or around 1250 lends itself to there being the legend. A tale from centuries ago (there was in fact no documented evidence of if until the fifteenth century), it is probably no more than a tale, though the existence of the original chapel or hermitage of the Virgin of Lluc - the product of the discovery of the image - is documented from roughly the same time: a procurator, Jaume de Marina, recorded the chapel in October 1268.

The pilgrimage nowadays benefits from decent enough roads. It's a slog - as suggested by the "pujada" - but at least the terrain is negotiable. What must it have been like in the thirteenth century? The current-day pilgrimage does at least retain the essence of what it was then and has remained - done on foot; donkeys also proved useful back in the day.

There is a coincidence where the date is concerned. Jaume II of Mallorca's coronation was on 12 September, 1276. This event was when he issued rights and privileges to the island, and it took place at the church of Santa Eulalia in Palma. Or was it a coincidence? The origin of the liturgical feast of Our Lady of Lluc being on 12 September appears uncertain, but it would appear that Jaume II - described as someone with intense Marian devotion (i.e. to the Virgin) - made clear this devotion during his coronation.

The point about this is that nowadays there is a distinction made when it comes to 12 September: a distinction between the secular and the religious, despite the fact that the two, historically, may well be bound together. The day of Mallorca, falling as it does on 12 September, is an invention of the late 1990s. The rationale was the coronation and the granting of privileges - the secular meaning of 12 September. It owes nothing to the religious, yet Our Lady of Lluc is Mallorca's patron saint.

The debate that is currently ongoing regarding Mallorca Day stems from the fact that not everyone is convinced that 12 September, 1276 is the epitome of "Mallorcaness". Alternative dates have been suggested, but nowhere in this debate do the religious and spiritual intrude. Swapping the justification for 12 September from the secular - the coronation - to the religious (the feast day) appears a non-starter.

For the political world (much of it anyway), it is important to be separate from the church. And there are very good and legitimate reasons why this should be. Some politicians, though, make a display of spurning religion and notable celebrations, even if they are rooted deeply in local traditions. The mayor of Pollensa, for instance, declined to attend the moving ceremony of Good Friday this year. He was within his rights to do so, but for all its religious symbolism it is also a symbol of tradition, anticipated as much by the faithful as it is by the non-believers. When it comes to the pilgrimage to Lluc (and the one in August), how many participants are genuinely religious? It isn't an imperative.

So, should there be a recognition of the dual meaning of 12 September and to therefore reinforce Mallorca Day? The politicians probably wouldn't allow it, but they might want to trace things back and see the origins of their secularism. They might also discover that it was 12 September in 1229 when the first main battle (Porto Pi) took place between Jaume I's forces and those of the occupying Muslims. Thus commenced the process for everything Catalan (secular and religious) that is present-day Mallorca.

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