Santa Maria de Siurana

With that grace alate/
which thy stool embalms/Shelter neath thy cloak/our humble homes and farms.

We pass along the Camí dels Degotalls – Leaky Way in Baldyspeak – on a couple of my Montserrat walks, but it’s normally one of the least visited parts of the mountain. It is, however, worth a peep, since it is where Catalan parishes come and leave majolica plaques in the hope that they will inherit some of the goodness of the the national Übermum, sat up there on her Überaquifer.

Here’s a photo of the piece dedicated in May 2003 to Santa Maria de Siurana, Siurana being one of the hamlets around Cornudella de Montsant, in the Priorat hills down south:

[Santa Maria de Siurana]

The verse, which I hadn’t heard before, reads:

Per aquella gràcia alada
que embauma vostre escambell
Acolliu nostra contrada
davall de vostre mantell.

In English:

at grace alate
which thy stool embalms
Shelter neath thy cloak
our humble homes and farms.

Read about the alleged substitution of Solsona’s rain deity in 1929, and La Vanguardia’s attempts to play down the story, here.

to this site, Santa Maria de Siurana became the neighbourhood’s principal rain goddess half way through through the second millennium when she surged ahead of her local rival, Santa Maria del Montsant. Her status seems to have been helped by her skills in fighting plague outbreaks and was confirmed in a bull signed by Innocence XI in 1682. The first jubilee was celebrated on May 9th 1683 by a huge crowd, and her thanks were so generous that in 1703 it was decided to crown her. Since for every event here there are at least two definitive dates, another page records that the ceramic in the photo was installed to mark the 150th anniversary of the lady’s coronation and – more convincingly – the 850th anniversary of the reconquest of the zone from the Moors (blog post re Siurana’s mosque).

This dual jubilee has apparently been celebrated in organised fashion since 1862, and the programme last May included a eucharist led by the archbishop, Lluís Martinez, the blessing of the bounds, and then on the last day of the month a trip to Montserrat with a car backseat piled with tiles. Back in 1953, the ceremonies were held in a slightly less folksy atmosphere. Observe Cardinal Benjamín Arriba i Castro being assisted onto a mule, that he may lead the faithful up to the shrine, military governor Baldrich (sic) bulging out of his uniform, the spotless surplices of the processionaries, the ruins of the phylloxera-devastated village.

The Republicans had replaced popular deities with icons of Stalin and the Falangists in general were in favour of the division of church and state, but politics in the 50s was about hoisting the Catholic church’s gods back into place and impressing on people the importance of keeping them there.

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