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Graphic testimonies of the religiosity of yesteryear on All Souls' Day


Published in

Diario de Navarra

Ricardo Fernández Gracia

Chair of Heritage and Art in Navarre

The custom of burying bodies by Christians dates back to the first centuries of our era, when they opted for the burial of bodies, as opposed to the Roman custom of cremation. At first, they did so in the gardens of the houses of certain faithful, then in the catacombs and, later, in stone sepulchres.

During the Middle Ages, average, it was widely believed that the bodies of those buried inside churches benefited more from the liturgical services celebrated in them and, therefore, attained divine forgiveness sooner. This is why the tombs closer to the altar were more valuable than those further away.

The Partidas of Alfonso X the Wise established in Castile which persons could be buried in churches: "kings and queens and their fixed ones, and the bishops and abbots, and the priors and masters and the commanders who are perlados of the conventual churches, and the rich ommes and the other ommes onrados that fiziessen new churches or monasteries and scogiessen in them their burials; and all other omme quier fuesse member of the clergy or lay, that they put it by sanidat of good life and of good works".

The interiors of the parishes had secularly their plan of family sepulchers or encased that, in some cases, they are conserved and in others we know by drawn designs. Other cemeteries located in the atriums or next to the temples have bequest interesting funerary steles.

The celebration of All Souls' Day or the day of the faithful departed had an important character because it was prescribed that, from noon on November 1, the feast of All Saints, to average night of the following day, certain prayers, responsories and the petition for the intentions of the Pope were to be made, earning

Two interiors of churches in Baztanes on the day of Ánimas

The snapshot captured on a postcard marketed by the local establishment of G. Marín de Elizondo at the beginning of the 20th century, sample shows the appearance of the interior of the parish church on the day of the All Souls or its novena, with everything ready to sing the response with absolution to the catafalque, a piece that we see in front of the altar, next to the communion rail. But it is the entire pavement of the nave of the church, from the sotacoro, which is striking for being covered by the family tombs with offerings of candles and bread. As it is known, in the traditional society, the burial place was considered as an extension of the native house. It was located in the church and was known by the names of fosa or fuesa. The aforementioned offerings were placed on the grave, covered with a cloth for the dead, usually black, on which were placed a support for the candles or the axes, or for the match twisted in the argizaiola, a basket and a kneeler. The postcard belongs to a series of the locality and must be dated, of course before the construction of the new parish, in 1916, perhaps even average dozen years earlier.

In the photo library of the file General of Navarra a photograph of great quality of the parish of Arizcun is conserved, seen from the presbytery towards the feet, in the same dates of the month of November. It is a snapshot taken by Félix Mena. On its obverse side there is the registration: "F. Mena - Pamplona". On the back: "PHOTOGRAPH OF F. MENA. AWARDED WITH GOLD MEDAL. Calle Mayor, 86. FLOOR leave. PAMPLONA". The snapshot is interesting not only because it shows us the church on a day of services, but also because it is taken before the last renovations, which eliminated the lateral wings of the choir and tore the original oculi to convert them into large windows. The author of the photograph, Félix Mena (Burgos, 1861 - Pamplona, 1935), settled in the Navarrese capital around 1884, soon becoming a partner with José Roldán, between 1888 and 1899. Later, after becoming independent, he worked in Pamplona and Elizondo. Trying to fix the chronology of the photograph of Arizcun, it has been basic the enquiry of the book of accounts of the mentioned locality and to verify that between 1923 and 1924 the church was painted and many other works were made, among them the organ. Therefore, the photo will be from 1924 and of great value because it is prior to the reforms carried out fifty years later, very unfortunate from the point of view of cultural heritage.

The San Cernin and the parish of Leiza

The wooden plan of the tombs of San Saturnino de Pamplona was made in 1756 by Miguel Antonio Olasagarre and José Antonio Huici, with Juan Antonio Andrés approving it. Shortly before, in 1753, the one for the parish of San Nicolás was made by the carpenter Francisco de Aguirre, according to the model that he had just made in the parish of San Lorenzo. That of San Nicolás in the capital of Navarre is still preserved, as is that of the Dominicans in the same city. Among the stone casings, the one of the cloister of Los Arcos stands out, executed by the Biscayan stonemason Antonio de Barinaga with design of the Cistercian monk Fray Pascual Galbe, in 1752. But the most A was the cloister of the cathedral of Pamplona, with 316 sepulchres, built in 1771 by the master builders José Echeverría and Miguel Armendáriz, following the plan designed by the prestigious Juan Miguel Goyeneta.

Focusing on that of San Saturnino, a plan of the temple, conserved in the parish file and dated in 1796, contains the relation of all the tombs numbered by rows. Don Juan Albizu published, in his monograph of 1930, the owners of all of them, along with some reflections on a fashion that was making its way a century ago, that of flowers and wreaths, which he criticizes under the protection of the canonical and civil legislation for those who were not children, citing the Novísima Recopilación de Navarra and other legal texts. After that he concludes: "but, unfortunately, in this as in many things, the laws are dead and pious and traditional customs are abandoned to adopt other exotic ones: the liturgical offices and tender prayers of the Church sung by its ministers; the masses; the devout prayers; the wax candles illuminating the sepulchers; the offerings to contribute to the support of the clergy and their ministers, all that bears the traditional and Christian stamp; but the flowers in bulk, the wreaths, the five minutes of silence ... that brings the label of America and something smells of paganism"

The burial could be the exclusive right of a person, or extended or not to their descendants. The latter was in the hands of the Obrería, a kind of parish board with very broad powers. On All Saints' Day, the possessors were obliged to bring a steal of wheat and an axe of wax, which, after being there on the feast of All Souls' Day, remained for the parish. Some people left this burden to their heirs and its fulfilment was obligatory in order to continue with the right to burial. Others preferred to endow the burial with 50 ducats and then it was the Obreria who had to pay for the wheat and the axe, respecting the exclusivity. Those with the letter D on the plan indicate that they were endowed and those with DD indicate that they were doubly endowed.

The documentation of Leiza's encasing (1773) is very interesting, not only for having preserved its design, but also for the ideas it contains regarding salubrity. In the conditions it was demanded that the pits would open like doors, for the comfort of the faithful and for symmetry with the temple, because "if a man appears bad to the eye dressed beautifully in the body and ugly in the lower parts, it will also appear ugly to enter a beautiful temple and that in its entrance its pavement offends theeye". As for health, "themost amiable pledge that we have in the temporal in this world", he bets for not breathing the corrupt air, avoiding its exhalation by perfectly closing the sepulchers, without any crack remaining. He argues that some northern countries had chosen to bury far from churches, internship that would be imposed a few years later in Spain. For this reason it is requested that the sepulchers have their frames adjusted and warns about the need to make a slit with its cap, to introduce in the same one an iron or key to open the cover of the grave.

Some snapshots of Ochagavía and Villanueva de Araquil

In 1924 the Pamplona photographic studio of Roldán made an extensive report for the exhibition on Regional and Historical Costume ( Madrid, 1925), commissioned by the Regional Costume Commission of Navarre. For the snapshot we present here, a group of women dressed in the traditional Salacenco costume posed on the steps of the parish of Ochagavía, carrying the traditional offering to the dead or light of the dead with an"argizaiola" on a wicker basket or"eskozaria". The first, according to Iribarren is formed by a rectangular board and a handle to roll up the skeins of wax that the women carry to the church to illuminate the fuesa or family grave during funerals, masses and anniversaries.

The photo of Villanueva de Araquil with its neighbors at the door of the church in front of a coffin, on the day of the deceased, was published in the magazine La Avalancha, in November 1931. It was made by Roldán with degree scroll of "Responso por los difuntos en el atrio de la iglesia". It is a pity that, unlike other photographs of that publication, the content of the same one is not explained. Undoubtedly, it also obeys the same purpose as those taken by the same photographer for the aforementioned exhibition. We can appreciate the preparation of the snapshot with people dressed ad hoc, with the traditional clothing and the absolution to the catafalque, in this case a simple coffin, on the day of the deceased, with the ceremonial prescribed by the Church for such celebration.