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Ricardo Fernández Gracia, Director of the Chair of Navarrese Heritage and Art.

Heritage and identity (39). Between the imaginary and the everyday: Roncesvalles in the Modern Age (and II)

Fri, 16 Oct 2020 11:31:00 +0000 Published in Navarra Newspaper


Between the tolling of bells and the singing of plainsongs

The ordinary life of the house, as in any village or monastery, was governed by the clock and the bells, which were under the supervision of the same person at position . At the beginning of the 17th century, it was stipulated that the individual should be instructed in ringing the bells in their different tolls corresponding to fires, holidays, semi-dual, double and solemn feasts, distinguishing also the mortuary, anniversaries, processions, ringing more or less quickly and with different times, "according to the quality of the feast and of the act". Apparently, all this had never been taken into account in the collegiate church, as the official document had been linked to the sacristan, who was quite busy with other divine worship duties. The knocks were also delegated to the boys and "although they are very large and loud, there is no rule or order in their knocks or differences". In those post-Tridentine times, there was a desire to be on a par with cathedrals, collegiate churches and other important temples.

The old tradition of the house, probably of medieval roots, was also taken up, of ringing a bell "by weight" for a while after nightfall and leaving matins to warn all the residents of the collegiate church to go home, closing their doors tightly, "because of the solitude and great passage of that place". The disused custom was brought back to internship at the beginning of the 17th century. To evoke the night in the surroundings of the collegiate church, without light, with total silence and the bell tolling, is still awe-inspiring.

The Constitutions of the chapter of 1785, published in 1791, foresaw that everything related to the bells would be at position of the minor sacristan and his servant.

Regarding the chant in the canonical hours, since the end of the XVI century, the stipulations of the Council of Trent and Milan were followed. The aforementioned Juan de Huarte affirms: "In Roncesvalles the whole official document is sung by the firm chant, called in the vulgar plain chant and with a big and sonorous organ, well played, because a right-handed official is always sought. The figurative chant is not sung, which is a chapel of voices, because there is no possibility and because the Catholic Church has more C the first one, which everyone has to know, even if they are dignitaries and they have to sing under penalty that in conscience they will not earn distributions".

At the beginning of the 17th century there were four infants, also called choirboys, who sang the verses and attended matins, two by two each week. They helped at mass and also served in the sacristy. It was estimated that there should be six, to dedicate four entirely to singing along with the racioneros, requiring them to know plainchant and organ.

The Constitutions of the chapter published in 1791 indicate that the organist was generally the chapel master, being a layman who played the organ. The organist had the obligation to play the organ at the conventual mass, vespers, compline, daily salve and matins and, of course, at all solemn ceremonies. To his position was the distribution of scores and care in their execution, ensuring that the lyrics and music were in accordance with "the majesty of the temple", an expression very close in content and form to what the Marquis of Ureña states in his Reflections on the architecture, ornament and music in the temple, published in Madrid in 1785.

As for the musicians, they were subject to the orders of the chapel master, the prior and his chapter. The infants were under the jurisdiction of the chapel master, who had to instruct them in music, with morning and afternoon classes. They also received 18 robos of wheat, six ducats, clothing and firewood. They lived in the collegiate church's own house.

The organ is described in 1587 with its registers of octave flute, quincena, dieciseiscena, flute, dulzainas and tremulant. In the twenties of the seventeenth century Pedro de la place made a new one, which was considered a great instrument at that time. The same master contracted an organ for Cáseda in 1624. The lists of organists were published in his study by M. C. Peñas.

Between the ordinary and the extraordinary: from bear and wolf hunting to illustrious visitors

In some provisions compiled in 1718, it was stated that whenever a hunter came with cubs of wolves, bears or their skins, they would be given two loaves of bread and two pints of wine, with the warning that if the canon hospitalero gave them two reales first, they would not be given anything else. These rewards were given as long as the calves or skins that they brought had been caught within two leagues of circumference around the collegiate church. In the 1713 accounts, 8 reales were noted to those who killed a bear in Ibañeta, 22 reales to a man from Abaurrea who brought three bear cubs, 10 reales to one from Aézcoa who brought four wolf cubs, 2 reales to another from Orbaiceta for five wolf cubs, 2 reales to one from Mezquíriz for a wolf and another 2 reales to another from Orbaiceta for three wolf cubs.

A very interesting chapter in daily life was that of the visits of prelates, viceroys, military and high personages of the Spanish and French courts. At the beginning of the 17th century, Subprior Huarte states that qualified guests and businessmen arrived with these paragraphs: "I do not want to say anything about the authorized and qualified people of luster who usually come up in good times from both Navarre and from other parts of Spain and France, for devotion or other respects, with accompanying troops, to whom a frank table is made, and it has not been seen that it is done at the expense of priors that they did not do ... , such people usually come up for the feasts of Our Lady of September that they call of the loose .... I also do not want to dwell on other people who come to Roncesvalles every day on business, such as the landlords, claveros, censeros and other administrators of the estates in both Navarras, especially when the general accounts of the rents and estates and those of the busts of major and minor cattle are examined in Roncesvalles, in which occasions so many people usually come that they tire, worry and spend".

On such occasions, at night, according to Martín de Azpilicueta, the canons with lighted candles would go to the hospital, called Caritat, a large building, similar to Itzandegia, of more than 500 square meters. There the pilgrims were ready to dine, and they greeted them. The canons, together with the illustrious visitors, went up to a platform, praying with the pilgrims for the benefactors, who were expressly named. After the blessing of the table, the prior, subprior or person of distinction would come down from the dais to distribute a loaf of bread, after kissing it, while the ministers of the hospital supplied the rest of the food, broths, meats or fish, depending on the day, without lacking wine. Undoubtedly, this is a very apt description for a scenographic recreation.

Royal visits

In 1560 the daughter of the kings of France, Isabella of Valois, who would marry Philip II in Guadalajara at the beginning of February of that year, passed through the collegiate church. Most of the retinue that accompanied her with Antonio de Borbón, king consort of the leave Navarra de Ultrapuertos and his brother Cardinal Borbón, after a horrible trip complicated by snow and snowdrifts, arrived at the collegiate church on January 5, where the Duke of Infantado and the Archbishop of Burgos were waiting on the Spanish side. The reception was in the aforementioned building of the Caritat, conveniently upholstered and with a richly carpeted dais and red throne. There followed speeches by the Archbishop of Burgos and Don Antonio de Borbón who, after recalling that he was giving the Spaniards the best of France, claimed, as King of Navarre, his rights. Afterwards, the three hundred pilgrims who were there that day attended the dinner, and the aforementioned Duke of Vendôme and King of Navarre, Don Antonio de Borbón, handed out a coat of arms to each one. In the visit that they made to the chapel of Sancti Spiritus, the French took, as relics, the last bones of those who died in the battle of Roncesvalles. When the retinue left the collegiate church there was snow on the ground and average .

Philip V paid a fleeting visit to the collegiate church on June 1, 1706 on a spring day and stayed, not in the priory house, but in that of Canon Simeón de Guinda y Apeztegui, a native of Esparza de Salazar, who had previously been in Paris for more than two years as procurator of the collegiate church and became friends with the confessor of the Duke of Anjou, later Philip V. The canon would be named abbot of San Isidoro de León and bishop of Urgel, in 1708 and 1714, respectively.

Of the stay in Roncesvalles, in 1714, of Isabel de Farnesio, second wife of Felipe V, we have more news, in part by the relation of the Jesuit Manuel Quiñones. The queen arrived on December 8 at night and was received by the entire collegiate chapter with the ringing of bells and many lighted axes. In the church, which was lavishly decorated with rich hangings and jewels, she was received under a canopy and a Te Deum and the Salve were sung. The following day, there was a kissing ceremony and on the 10th she left for Pamplona with two capitulars who joined the entourage. During the stay, 218 capons, 21 rams and 134 pounds of meat that were bought separately, 300 partridges, 18 turkeys, 97 boxes of preserves of different kinds supplied by the Poor Clares of Santa Engracia of Pamplona were spent. Eighteen pitchers of rancid wine were also consumed and the expense in sea fish amounted to 338 reales. The Queen was presented with two arrobas of dry sweets and a load of rancid wine.

We will close these paragraphs on royal visits with that of the widow of Charles II, Mariana of Neoburg who, on her return after years of exile, was received in Roncesvalles on September 22, 1738, before arriving in Pamplona where she spent Christmas. It was the first royal visit , after the dreadful fire in Roncesvalles in 1724. 

The September festival, known as "las sueltas" (the "loose ones")

Along with the great pilgrimages of the major brotherhoods in June, the great feast of the patron saint of the collegiate church on September 8 was called "las sueltas". Ibarra in his monograph supposes that, etymologically, it would come from "absolvere". Therefore, it would be the graces and indulgences for visiting the sanctuary on that occasion that determined the name. It was that day and the eve of the fairs, when numerous alms were collected from devotees and brothers who came from Navarre, Aragon and France. In order to preserve order and avoid quarrels, disorders and outrages, a mayor of Court used to arrive from Pamplona with soldiers from the surrounding valleys. Those guards were given a stipend, oil, a bread roll and a pint of wine each on the 7th, and on the 8th, two loaves of bread and three pints of wine. Finally, on the ninth, another two loaves of bread and two pints of wine.

The aforementioned sub-prior Huarte affirms that on the aforementioned feast of the Nativity of the Virgin, the sueltas are celebrated "and very loose, since all the sensual senses are loose... So many people attend that, ordinarily, there are more than eight thousand and there are so many burdens and expenses...".

Some sources indicate the arrival of eight or ten thousand pilgrims, which seems to be a large number. In this regard, it should be borne in mind that the chroniclers indicated these amounts to simply mean that there was a large crowd. In any case, there are specific data , such as the 1,200 rations given on September 8, 1772 and 1,680 rations on the same day in 1773.

The chapter's conference proceedings records protests from various canons on different dates on the occasion of those celebrations. There were years in which on the night of September 7 to 8, the church had to be closed, which, ordinarily, was usually left open on that occasion. In this respect, it is necessary to remember that in the cathedral of Pamplona, on the day of its titular, August 15, the crowds were such that armed guards were stationed inside the enclosure to avoid disorder.

In 1768, there was a large number of faithful, most of them with "devotion Building". However, it was noted that for some years there had been intolerable scandals in the opinion of the canons due to the arrival of a certain shopkeeper or merchant from Pamplona, who began to carry different kinds of trinkets and, in imitation of her, her maid and other merchants, merchants, silversmiths and shopkeepers of different kinds. All those stalls attracted French and Navarrese young men and women "who spend the nights in the nearby mountains and in places very suitable for the dissolutions and offenses of God"

Faced with this, the chapter had been requesting financial aid to the mayors and viceroys to put soldiers in the port, but it was not possible to remedy "such a vicious competition". When this was not stopped and wishing that everything would be infused with devotion, without wanting to hinder the bringing of supplies and food, they asked the courts to prohibit the sale of "marchanterías, silver jewelry and other trifles, cause of attracting the vicious and harmful competition".