Calonge is a village in Santanyi. Its name came from a mediaeval village in Baix Empordà, a region of Girona in Catalonia, and was granted by one of the nobles who accompanied Jaume I on his thirteenth century conquest of Majorca. Gilabert de Cruïlles was his name, the lord of the Girona Calonge. Nowadays, the original Calonge is modestly inhabited. Part of the Calonge i Sant Antoni municipality, it can boast almost 6,000 inhabitants. Its Majorcan counterpart cannot; there are under 1,000. Nevertheless, in village-within-Majorcan-municipality terms, this is a fair size. The population is larger than some entire municipalities, while Santanyi itself stretches to only around 3,600 people; Cala d’Or is slightly bigger.
The village has a parish church. As befits many a church in Majorca, its size - from the outside - can seem somewhat disproportionate to the village it serves. Inside, however, it isn’t that large, but it has sufficient space for the faithful, the dignitaries and the curious who gather to celebrate the feast day of the parish patron, who is no less than the Archangel Michael.
In the pantheon of saints, they don’t get much bigger than Sant Miquel. The vanquisher of Satan, Michael’s various other achievements included treading on a dragon. Yet for all this, and despite some obvious manifestations, such as one of Palma’s main shopping streets being named after him, Sant Miquel doesn’t exactly arouse a great deal of frenetic fiesta activity. Calonge is therefore somewhat unusual in its celebrations.
The fiestas can appear to go on for an absolute eternity. Summer passes into autumn by the time they reach their climax, the feast day of Michaelmas. The celebrations are typically spread over weekends, and when the day finally does arrive, the church hosts a dance of offering to the saint. Two “archangels” pay tribute to the Archangel.
They now speak in Calonge of a tradition, and as such this raises a question as to how old a tradition needs to be in order to qualify as one. In Calonge, they have no doubts. Eleven years are long enough to have created a tradition, and it involves the dancing archangels.
The archangels and a demon first appeared together eleven years ago. One of those involved, Miquel Adrover, recalls his godmother having taught him songs and dances that were characteristic of the Calonge area when he was very young. He had to learn them, he was advised, in order that he could pass them on to his children. “She instilled in me the importance of loving and transmitting the culture that defines our identity.” He accepts that there may be those who don’t identify with what has now become a tradition, but he believes that there needs to be an identity with Calonge that will be cherished and will last.
Maria Barceló, originally not from Calonge but who new feels to be a “calongina” in every respect, remembers how the archangels’ “project” started and how she and others were both delighted but also somewhat anxious. It was an ambitious project in that costumes had to be made, music had to be written, dances had to be created and then practised.
There were hours of rehearsals. It was rather like preparing for a theatrical show, which in a way it is. When August comes around, it is time to start the rehearsals. In 2012, Maria took the part of the Archangel Michael for the first time. It was, she explains, a bit odd. The dances involved her having to do “battle” with the demon, who happened to be her husband.
Miquel Rigo says that in August 2009 he got a call from Toni Matas, who was one of the principal driving forces behind the idea. Toni told him that the intention was to create characters who would have their distinctive dances. These would become a tradition for the people, one on a par with, for example, the Eagles of Corpus Christi in Pollensa or the Cossiers of Montuiri.
There is a glosa, a verse which pays tribute to the founders and to what the dances and the day of Sant Miquel mean. “It is a great feeling to be able to represent the patron and for the people to look on. The archangels and the demon began, a story for the people to preserve ... The biggest day of the year in Calonge is Sant Miquel ... Sant Miquel is here! It’s time to prepare, to dress up and to go out.”