I said last post but one that I would clarify my itinerary on last year’s trip to Catalonia, because it wasn’t very simple. This was so for four reasons. Firstly, we were trying to hire a car only for one part of the trip, but not all the things we wanted to drive to were close to each other. Secondly, I had made an effort on this trip actually to meet my few Catalan academic contacts, to whom I almost never give enough notice of my arrival, and that left me with many commitments. And the third and fourth reasons I’ll explain as they arise, because they were not planned. The original plan looked like this:
- Day 1. Arrive in Girona by air, pick up car, drive to Sacalm and then to Vic.
- Day 2. Three castles in a day!
- Day 3. Sant Pere de Casserres and the putative Castell by car, then back to Girona, return car, rail to Barcelona.
- Days 4 & 5. Meeting people, tourism and book-buying in Barcelona, finishing with rail back to Vic again.
- Day 6. Archive work in Vic and visiting one of the Museu Episcopal and cathedral.
- Day 7. Visit the other one, then rail to la Garriga and briefly into the bosom of my family at Palautordera.
- Day 8. Early lift to Girona and fly home!
This plan had already come adrift by the time we arrived, however, as my companion had been invited to a job interview on what should have been Day 3. I did my absolute best with plans, but in the end Sant Pere de Casserres had to be given up, again, and instead we decided to return the car early, get my companion to the airport and then I spend the next day or so in Barcelona myself until she could join me. A pity, but a reasonable fix, and it did not prevent us either catching up with the inestimable Professor Gaspar Feliu in Sacalm, which was a real test for my long-silent Catalan, or as you have seen doing the three castles with all the energy we could muster the next day. But the day after that was to Girona and then to Barcelona and then a lone trip back from the airport for me to our fairly dreadful accommodation.1 But the actual point of this post is what happened next, which is that, following directions very carefully, I went out to Bellvitge to meet up with Lleida doctoral student Elisabet Bonilla Sitja. I had met Elisabet when she spent a term in Oxford and we immediately bonded over the Vic charters; she is mining them for evidence on mentalities, which is actually quite possible to do, and I am looking forward to there being more of her stuff to read.2 But right at this point, she wanted to show me a church.
This is the Ermita de Santa Maria de Bellvitge, and it is about the oldest building in the locality, by which we mean it’s thirteenth-century but in its current aspect mostly eighteenth-century restoration. Some limited reading for this post establishes that it’s hiding something, however, to wit, an eleventh-century church of a rather larger size that was knocked down to build this one. There were burials of the period found when setting up the park in which the church now sits. The whole settlement is only recorded for the first time in 995, and then only as the regario de Amalviga (I don’t have a direct reference here so the spelling may be off), the name having to go through some changes to get to where it is now. The church under this was thus probably the first one here.3 It’s completely invisible now but even this baroque one is doing a good job of looking utterly out of place in what is otherwise an extremely modern-looking area.
Bellvitge’s main claim to fame otherwise, I was told, is that the secret treaty which ended the War of the Spanish Succession in 1713 was signed here, and so it was in the building below that Catalonia was delivered to the Spanish Crown after a fairly prolonged attempt to get away. This takes some particularly careful representation in the area’s promotion of its heritage…
All the other history of Bellvitge is modern, as far as I can see, which means that I must have got a wrong impression of the structure below, which I saw somewhere along the way. I can’t find it on Google Maps, didn’t think to ask Elisabet and have no idea what it is or how old. But I can end a blogpost with an enigma if I like, right? And so I shall, and in the next-but-one return us to Barcelona proper and one building I’d never before managed to get inside.
1. We do not recommend the Pensión Cortes on the Gran Via de Les Corts Catalanes, and I will not favour it with a link. It is dingy, ageing and there are no locks on the bedroom doors, and the landlady has lengthy and xenophobic directions for how to visit the city which she unloaded on us even though we didn’t need them, or even understand most of them.
2. For now I base my opinion on E. Bonilla Sitja, “Aproximación al estudio de la vida y mentalidad altomedieval: la Plana de Vic, 872-936”, unpublished Master’s thesis (Universitat de Lleida 2011), of which she was kind enough to send me a copy.
3. For detail see Albert López Mullor, “Santa Maria de Bellvitge” in Antoni Pladevall (ed.), Catalunya Romànica XX: el Barcelonès, el Baix Llobregat, el Maresme, ed. María-Lluïsa Ramos i Martínez (Barcelona 1992), pp. 266-267.