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Retrospective glances at the visit of San Miguel de Aralar to Pamplona

17/04/2023

Published in

Diario de Navarra

Ricardo Fernández Gracia

Chair of Heritage and Art in Navarre

In the Navarrese and western society, every festive event has been translated into a contrast with respect to everyday life. The components of the arrival of the Angel of Aralar to Pamplona have varied, as in any festival, characterized by being a dynamic phenomenon. Some customs, the fundamental ones, endure, others reappear, while others have been created or recreated over time.

We will deal with the annual visit , leaving for another occasion other extraordinary stays, such as that of 1689, after the robbery of that year, when the damage was repaired and there was a great procession, presided over by the bishop, which ended in the monastery of the Poor Clares of Santa Engracia.

The visit until 1770: one day only, from Tuesday to Wednesday.

There are not many written testimonies about the annual visit , prior to the 17th century, probably because of its repetitive nature. The first is by Martín de Argáiz y Antillón, prior of the cathedral, in a manuscript begun in 1623. When giving an account of the obligations of the chantre, he points out that of paying for the sermon "of the Dedication and of San Miguel de Excelsis, who comes to it in the afternoon".

Three testimonies of the stay between Tuesday and Wednesday date from the beginning of the 18th century. The first by the prior of the church, Fermín de Lubián, is very laconic and refers to the presence of the effigy on the second vespers of the day of the Dedication of the temple, when it arrived at about two o'clock in the afternoon, without a reception by the canons, nor a special protocol .

The second is by Francisco García de Palacios, confessor and theologian of Bishop Pedro Aguado, who wrote a long manuscript, between 1714 and 1716, about San Miguel de Aralar. Regarding the stay in Pamplona, he is clear in pointing out a little more than twenty-four hours: "At dawn of that Tuesday, the angelic image of St. Michael and his prodigious Holy Cross leave the parish church of Huarte for Pamplona, accompanied by the priests and some of the brothers of Excelsis and a good issue of devotees of the country, priests and laymen who serve the Holy Archangel until returning from Pamplona to Huarte at noon of the following Wednesday". After noting the joy and jubilation of the people, the visits to San Nicolás, the cathedral, San Saturnino and San Lorenzo, he repeats again that he left for Aralar on Wednesday "immediately after the Tuesday of his coming".

Thirdly, we have the data of the sanctuary accounts. In those of 1706 it is noted that it remained in the city for only one day and that alms were asked for on the way to and from the shrine. The detailed expenses note the dinner on Tuesday and lunch on Wednesday for the companions, as well as the stops in Erro on the way there and in Izurdiaga on the way back. Likewise, the expenses of the questors who went through the streets and houses asking for alms on Tuesdays and Wednesdays are recorded.

From plenary session of the Executive Council century XVIII dates the one written by father Burgui, published in 1774, although its content takes approval of 1766 and he worked it in the previous decade. In any case, what is written is previous to the changes introduced in 1770, and it indicates: "Onthe Tuesday following the Dominica in Albis, in which the Dedication of the Cathedral Church of Pamplona is celebrated, the towns of Huarte-Araquil, Arruazu, Irañeta and the valley of Araquil, lead in procession the image of the same San Miguel de Excelsis to this city ..... On the following day, with the same people of those towns they accompany it to Huarte".

According to Julio Ruiz de Oyaga, the reception took place outside the walls, until, in 1557, the Taconera humilladero was built. The same Tuesday of the arrival, the chapter of San Nicolás with its vicar at the head said a sung mass in Barbatain, where the Pamplona brotherhood of San Miguel de Excelsis had a chaplaincy. The mentioned confraternity had constitutions reformed in 1349, and had the privilege to receive the Angel, to lodge him that night and to accompany him in his displacements for the city.

A bishop from Baztanes and the changes in the visit since 1770

If anyone stood out for his initiatives in favor of the cult of Saint Michael of Excelsis, it was Juan Lorenzo Irigoyen y Dutari, canon and bishop of Pamplona. He was responsible for the commissioning of the work of Father Burgui, the road to the sanctuary, the new appearance of the image and the new way for its reception in Pamplona since 1770. Previously he had attempted changes, in 1756, with the consent of the chapter, but Bishop Miranda y Argáiz never authorized them. When Irigoyen was named bishop, he made every effort to prolong the Angel's stay in the city and to give greater solemnity to his reception. To what is already known, we will add the letter, preserved in the Municipal file , which he addressed to the Pamplona Regiment to join the celebration, something that the corporation did two years ago. In it he argues that his longing and purpose were due to the benefits received through the intercession of St. Michael and his responsibility as bishop. He gives an account of what he calls a "new method" in the stay in the city, which until then had been marked, in his opinion, by confusion and tropelía, "by the shortness of the time that was granted for the conduction and detention of the holy image in this city". As a first point he proposed the entrance on Monday at four o'clock and average to be taken to San Nicolás and from there to the cathedral the following day for attend to the morning mass and, as before, to all the afternoon functions, leaving the departure for Wednesday, after visiting San Saturnino and San Lorenzo. With this, they would gain in zeal, piety and "more reverent and obsequious" worship.

The cathedral chapter agreed in everything with the bishop's wishes, with the exception of the prelate's desire to give prominence in the cathedral to the members of the brotherhood of San Miguel de San Nicolás who, as we have pointed out, since time immemorial, carried the image on its route through the streets of Pamplona. As it left the cathedral, the voices and instruments of the music chapel accompanied the Angel through the streets.

The pathway to Pamplona

Two and a half centuries ago, in 1774, people from Huarte Araquil, Irañeta, Arruazu and other towns accompanied the image to Pamplona. From Irañeta came 22 neighbors, 11 from Arruazu and 12 from Huarte Araquil. The first stage ended in Erroz and stopped again in Orcoyen. In Pamplona all the retinue used to stay in the same inn, which in that year was Izcue, and gave rise to a lawsuit because those from Arruazu were attached to a certain nighttime revelry.

Of the path followed by the image and its bearers we have the testimony of 1922. The departure from the sanctuary took place early on Sunday afternoon. In Huarte-Araquil the town council, the chapter and the neighbors were waiting and they went to the parish singing the litanies. The following day, at six o'clock in the morning, it left the aforementioned town and stopped in Satrústegui and Zuazu to venerate the effigy. In Ecay, at about ten o'clock and average a solemn mass was celebrated and the fields were blessed. At two o'clock the route continued through Zuasti, Iza and Orcoyen. In the latter town the fields were also blessed.

José Javier Uranga, in 1955, masterfully described the arrival at Orcoyen, with rocket fire and endless ringing of bells. He describes with heartfelt paragraphs the arrival of the image, followed by a cavalry, the metal kiss between the Archangel and the parish cross, pointing out that "The scene has a strong ritual and rural emotion. San Miguel Arcángel, andapueblos, in the seron of his macho or on top of the pole carried by mayors, blesses with his coruscating gold in ancient and solemn formula the oats, the barley, the beans, the fodder, the fenugreek of those men who pray to him with the beret in their hands".

Milestones in Pamplona and the Angel of Mecca

At the end of Arigita's monograph (1904) we find a description that, in many aspects, coincides with what he repeats year after year, at least in the fundamentals, with the visits to the old parishes -including that of St. Augustine- and, above all, the cathedral. We refer to his text, in which numerous visits are noted, much more than those of previous decades.

The Angel of the Casa de Misericordia, already reported in the press in 1877, plays a special role in the reception. For almost all those who have written about topic it is the archangel Saint Gabriel. Julio Ruiz Oyaga, a connoisseur of the file of the parish of San Nicolás, tried to demonstrate that it is the image of St. Michael, patron saint of his old Pamplona brotherhood, which maintained a hospital absorbed after the Disentailment by the Casa de Misericordia, which sold its site in 1851. In his lines he defends the popular character of the festival: "Everything is popular there. There were never golillas or chisteras at its reception. Neither authorities of any class. There are only people... It is therefore the old hospital of San Miguel that represents the image of Mercy that goes to meeting of San Miguel. Only that the saintly ignorance of the nuns has made of the old Saint Michael a graceful Saint Gabriel with flowers instead of a sword and a little plexiglass hood so that he does not get wet. The two Saint Michael, the one of Aralar and the one of Mercy, must laugh when they kiss each other, because of the alteration that the piety of the nuns has made to one of them". Without going into the possible reception of Saint Michael until the middle of the 19th century, what is not sustainable is to think that the current sculpture, typically Catalan of the so-called "cap y pota", is Saint Michael, since the position of the index finger of one of his hands pointing upwards, in consonance with the oratory of his words and of the other hand ready to take a staff, scepter or bouquet of lilies, lead us, without any doubt, to the archangel Saint Gabriel. In addition, carefully reviewing the accounts of the Casa de Misericordia, there is a receipt of 220 reales, in 1866, paid to Sister Tomasa Cía, for a sculpture of the "child Gabriel", in possible allusion to the Archangel Saint Gabriel, due to its small size, very similar to that of the Infant Jesus of those formal characteristics. However, it may refer to other future saints with that name, such as St. John Gabriel Perboyre, who joined the Congregation of St. Vincent de Paul, the male branch of the Daughters of Charity, the nuns of the House of Mercy, at the age of fifteen.

The 20th century a party in crescendo

Throughout the last century, the visit of the Angel to Pamplona was growing in days of stay and in some other aspects, such as the presence of some authorities. At the beginning of the 20th century, the image arrived, as it had been doing since 1770, on Monday afternoons, although the number of visits had increased.

We have relied on the news of the local press to determine the days of his stay in the city. The enquiry of the newspapers has led us to articles on iconography, history, customs, music ... etc., related to his coming, signed, among others, by Mariano Arigita, José Esteban Uranga, Leocadio Hernández Ascunce, Ignacio Baleztena, or Julio Ruiz Oyaga.

The successive extensions of days are in line with the growth of the city and its parishes, schools and institutions. This is not the place, but the data suggest reflections partner-religious, and even political from a Pamplona that had not yet broken its walled enclosure until today.

Since 1770 the stay covered from Monday to Wednesday and so it was until 1915, the year of the demolition of the walls, when an extra day was added, leaving the city on Thursday. At that time it is worth mentioning the postponement of the visit due to the enormous snowfall in the sanctuary during the first days of April 1910.

Between 1915 and 1937, the image was until Thursday. In 1925, as a novelty, the protocolary visit was added to Diputación, which was interrupted in 1932. In 1933 and 1936 it did not come because it did not have the permissions of the authorities of the II Republic. In 1936 he arrived at the end of July to travel to numerous localities immediately.

From 1938 to 1944 the Angel remained between Monday and Friday, from 1939 began the visit to the Town Hall. From 1945 it stayed until Saturday. From 1948 he visited the Audiencia and from 1950 the Civil Government. Finally, from 1958 to the present the stay was extended until Sunday. In this period the visit to the Parliament took place between 1984 and 2016 and the cathedral mass changed its schedule to be celebrated in the afternoon, since 1972.