Alcudia

Alcudia

25-07-2007GABRIEL ALOMAR

Alcudia is a city. It is one of seven cities in Majorca. Felanitx, Inca, Llucmajor, Manacor, Palma and Soller are the others. The Ciutat de Mallorca, i.e. Palma, was given this name following Jaume I’s 1229 conquest. Almost three centuries were to pass before there was a second, official Ciutat. This was Alcudia. The other five were given the title between 1886 and 1916. The royal privilege of Ciutat (or Ciudad) was in recognition of their commercial and industrial significance.

Alcudia received its honour for a very different reason. It was granted in July 1523 by Carlos I of Spain, who was also Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor. Alcudia was, the citation read, “the most faithful city to the Emperor”. This faithfulness had been shown by Alcudia in having remained loyal to the king during the Revolta de les Germanies, the Revolt of the Brotherhoods. The nobility who hadn’t been massacred were able to take refuge inside the walls. Alcudia stood firm, more or less; the walls were badly damaged. After the revolt was crushed by the king’s forces, Alcudia’s role was officially recognised.

The Ermita de la Victoria, the Hermitage of La Victoria, is some seven kilometres from the historic centre of Alcudia. Notable for, among other things, the view across the bay of Pollensa, the origin of the hermitage was a mid-thirteenth century sanctuary and watchtower. It is known that at the start of the fifteenth century there were hermits in the mountains of La Victoria. One of them, Father Diego Gàrcia, is attributed with having founded the hermitage. A document of 1403 gave permission for mass to be celebrated at the sanctuary, where the image of the Virgin Mary was to become known as Nostra Dona de Fra Diego.

It is believed that Father Diego was from the Carmelite Order, as it was Carmelites who, from 1482, set about improvement work at the hermitage. This work had been completed by around the time that the Revolt of the Brotherhoods started in 1521. The image of the Virgin had been removed while the work was being carried out. It was in safe keeping behind Alcudia’s walls, and this perhaps fortuitous temporary relocation was - according to one hypothesis - the reason for the image having been renamed as Mare de Déu de la Victoria (literally, the Mother of God of the Victory).

At the start of July each year, the Festa de la Mare de Déu de la Victoria is held. The feast day is July 2, on which day in 1680 Father Jaume Barceló delivered a sermon in which he explained the origins of the image of the Virgin, which were not dissimilar to the circumstances surrounding the Black Madonna, Our Lady of Lluc.

Around 1300, a shepherd boy named Joan Boi heard angelic chanting. He joined in with the chanting, and the participants kissed the hand of a beautiful lady, the Virgin. This miracle was repeated on three occasions. The boy told the rector of the parish, who didn’t believe him. Eventually, the rector and others were persuaded to head up to the mountains. They found the image of the Virgin hidden among some bushes. A solemn procession then followed, the people of Alcudia going to marvel at this image. But when they arrived, the image had disappeared. It was then found in the same spot where the shepherd boy had first seen the Virgin - in an area of pine trees, looking out across the bay. The interpretation was that this was where the Virgin (and her image) wished to remain - the site of the hermitage. So, the image and the hermitage had long formed part of local folklore by the sixteenth century and therefore the renaming of the image in that century. The fiesta itself was seemingly first celebrated in 1643, when the Mare de Déu was named patron of the Ciutat, city of Alcudia, and July 2 was the day because this was supposedly was when the visitation (the appearance of the Virgin to the shepherd boy) occurred. But what was La Victoria, the Victory?

There are two other interpretations. One concerns Charles V, whose forces had stopped in Alcudia en route to battle against the Ottoman Barbarossa in Tunisia in 1535. Charles and Father Antoni d’Àvila of the Carmelites prayed to the image for victory. Tunis was recaptured. The second has to do with an October 1551 invasion by some 500 Moors. The image of the Virgin came to the help of the people of Alcudia in repelling the invaders.

The 1551 interpretation is the one commonly referred to, but it is almost certainly wrong. The text of the eighteenth century La Victoria “goigs” (meaning something like songs of joy) refers to the armies of the Brotherhoods, while when victory over the Brotherhoods was secured, Father Antoni d’Àvila apparently took to the streets and squares of Alcudia, shouting “Victory, Victory”. The image was of course in Alcudia at the time and not at the hermitage.

There is a slight politically correct problem with this, the consequence of the fact that the Brotherhoods are nowadays considered by many to have been heroic in their having sought a form of anti-monarchist and anti-feudal democracy. For this reason, it might be suggested, 1551 is a more convenient interpretation.

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