Category: Religion in the Basque Country (page 1 of 2)

July 31, 1556: Death of Saint Ignatius of Loiola

It remains one of the key dates in the Basque calendar, July 31, the day Saint Ignatius of Loiola died in Rome as  a result of a form of malaria. Born in Azpeitia, Gipuzkoa, in 1491, at age eighteen he entered into the military service of the Duke of Nájera, who would subsequently  become Viceroy of Navarre after its capitulation to Castile in 1512. He demonstrated a keen military sense and became a key aide to the Duke, but was injured seriously at the Battle of Pamplona-Iruñea in 1521, while fighting for the Crown of Castile against a combined Navarrese-French force.

Saint Ignatius of Loiola (1491-1556). Painting by E. Salaberria. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Saint Ignatius of Loiola (1491-1556). Painting by E. Salaberria. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Sent home to the family seat in Gipuzkoa, and his military career over, he went through an arduous recovery process, during which time he went through a famous spiritual conversion, formulating a method of meditation he termed the “spiritual exercises.” Once he had recovered sufficiently to walk, he undertook a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, practising a strict form of asceticism along the way. On his return to Europe he began preaching in public, and eventually settling in Paris to continue his theological studies.

When Peter Faber and Francis Xavier (another Basque) founded the Society of Jesus in 1539, Loiola was chosen to be the order’s first Superior General. He subsequently helped establish the Jesuits as a dynamic order, organizing missions and creating a strong, disciplined centralized organization.

Loiola was beatified in 1609 and canonized in 1622. His feast day, July 31, is celebrated in both Gipuzkoa and Bizkaia, as well as being an important date for Basque Americans in Idaho. Indeed, next year’s celebration will coincide with Jaialdi, held every five years in Boise.

Today, the Sanctuary of Loiola is an important site in the Basque Country, and of course several important educational institutions bear his name in the US as does the town of St. Ignace in Michigan.

January 16, 1843: Birth of Blessed Rafaela Ybarra

Rafaela Ybarra Arambarri was born on January 16, 1843 in Bilbao into a comfortable middle-class family. In 1861 she married José de Vilallonga and went on to have seven children (although two died in infancy). She was devout and a visit to Lourdes in 1883 resulted in getting over a serious illness. In 1890, with the permission of her husband, she made private vows to be chaste and fully obedient to God. Coinciding with the spectacular nineteenth-century industrial take-off and urban boom in Bilbao, and the social and demographic problems these changes provoked, she organized various welfare institutions for women and children in Bilbao. In 1894, along with three others, she founded a religious order to help all the poor children of Bilbao, opening a home to help the less fortunate in 1899 (a year after her husband had passed away). In 1900, after struggling with a long illness, she herself died. Shortly thereafter, in 1901, the order she had helped found, the Angeles Custodios (Guardian Angels), received diocesan approval.

Rafaela Ybarra Arambarri (1843-1900). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Rafaela Ybarra Arambarri (1843-1900). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In 1929 a beatification process opened and in 1952 she became titled as a Servant of God. Then, in 1970 she was named as Venerable and in 1984 she was ultimately beatified.  A process is currently taking place by which she is being considered for sainthood.

At Midnight by Javier Arzuaga

I started loving books about prisons when I was about fifteen, when I picked up The Green Mile by Stephen King, which is still one of my all-time favorites. I then moved onto The Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King and I am now beginning to read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey (which one is technically a short story and the other isn’t technically about a prison, but you get the idea). They are just so gritty and dark, yet hopeful and understanding, usually saying more about life and death through the tales of those who are vulnerable enough to really understand their existential value, than you get out of most books.

 

So it wasn’t surprising when I fell in love with At Midnight by Javier Arzuaga, a book I absolutely adore for three reasons. First of all, the book’s plot itself is fascinating; it is a true account of Arzuaga’s experience as a Catholic priest at La Cabaña, the prison where the accomplices of the overthrown dictator after the Cuban Revolution were held. Arzuaga’s job was to console those who were sent to be executed. Through the process of Arzuaga consoling fifty-five men sent to death, he shares his thoughts on life, death, God and religion, from the perspective of someone whose job it is to deal with these existential topics constantly.

A view of La Cabana, Havana, Cuba, photo by Micheal N. Escobar via Wikimedia Commons

The second reason is this is the first book I had ever read before it was published and it was downright magical seeing the process of publication and seeing something materialize from just words on a screen become a book. It is one nice looking book as well, with the artwork making you feel as though you are walking through the door to the afterlife.
The third reason I loved this book is that, unlike The Green Mile or The Shawshank Redemption, At Midnight a true account, which adds a whole new level to it. Not only is it interesting that this actually happened, but since Arzuaga was an actual person, instead of a character, it gives it a sense of irony and comfort that you can’t get from a fictional book; that the author, who had to deal with so much death, has an afterlife through his accounts of life and death.

 

NOTE from BasqueBooksEditor: Welcome to Carly Sauvageau. Carly is a journalism student here at UNR and has joined the team as our student assistant—and the latest contributor to the Basque Books Blog! Welcome aboard Carly and thanks for sharing your thoughts about this amazing book with us! All you all out there, if you don’t have a copy of At Midnight, you should get one soon 🙂

 

 

 

February 25, 1119: Conquest of Tutera by Alfonso the Battler

On February 25, 1119, Tutera (Tudela) in Navarre, an important center of Muslim political power and culture in the Iberian peninsula, fell to the forces of Alfonso I, “the Battler ,” King of Aragon. So ended an important era in the history of the city, one in which it was even for a while the capital of an independent taifa (a Muslim-ruled principality).

Bust of Musa ibn Musa in Tutera. Photo by Arenillas. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Founded as a Roman villa by the name of Tutela, and following a period of Visigothic rule, the town came under Muslim control during the initial eighth-century conquest of Hispania by the Umayyad Caliphate. In 802 the town was fortified and renamed Al-Tutili by Amrus ibn Yusuf,  a native of Huesca (probably of Visigothic origin) and governor of Zaragoza.  It then became the Emirate of Al-Hakam and the permanent residence of Musa ibn Musa, “the Great,” leader of the Banu Qasi clan, rulers of the Upper Ebro Valley in the ninth and early tenth centuries.  The Banu Qasi family were of Hspano-Roman or Visigothic ancestry and had intermarried with local Basque nobles: Musa ibn Musa was the maternal half-brother of Iñigo Arista, the King of Pamplona-Iruñea, and he even married Arista’s daughter. He is also presumed to have supported the Basques against the Franks in the Second Battle of Orreaga (Ronceveaux) in 824, a battle generally credited as giving birth to the Kingdom of Pamplona-Iruñea. Indeed, Musa’s power was such–ultimately extending to control of Zaragoza, Huesca, and Toledo, as well as Tutera–that  he was even referred to as the “Third King of Spain” alongside Abd ar-Rahman II  of the Emirate of Córdoba and Ordoño I of the Kingdom of Asturias.

Excavation of the Great Mosque of Tutera. Photo by Arenillas. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Tutera flourished under Musa’s rule, becoming an important economic and cultural as well as political center. There was religious tolerance, a thriving economy, and a vibrant cultural life. The multicultural reality in Tutera was made up of Muslim, Mozarab (Iberian Christian), and Jewish communities. That multicultural spirit lived on, initially to some extent at least, after its fall to Alfonso I and was perhaps best reflected by the Jewish traveler and scholar Benjamin of Tudela (1130-1173), author of The Travels of Benjamin, an important medieval text chronicling both Jewish communities in particular and broader cultures and societies throughout large parts of Europe, Africa, and Western Asia.

 

 

February 3, 1910: Bishop José Cadena y Eleta bans use of Basque names in christenings

On February 3, 1910, José Cadena y Eleta, Bishop of the Diocese of Vitoria-Gasteiz (comprising Araba, Bizkaia, and Gipuzkoa), issued a pastoral exhortation demanding that both priests and parishioners decease from baptizing children with Basque first names. He argued that the official language of the Church was Latin, and that Spanish was also used in parish documents and records within Spain. He then went on to warn all priests in his diocese to observe Church norms in this regard, especially those younger members who, he suggested, were treading on dangerous ground by sanctioning the use of such names; a move, he contended, that only brought disunion and discord among Basques.

José Cadena y Eleta (1855-1918)

Cadena’s initiative was then submitted for Vatican approval, which responded that baptisms should ideally be carried out in Latin and transcribed in Spanish.  However, the Vatican ruling also acknowledged that, in the final instance, if the parents insisted on giving their children Basque names, these wishes should be respected, stating the name in both Basque and Latin during the service, and transcribing it in Basque and Spanish for the parish records. On receiving the Vatican instructions, Cadena informed the clergy in his diocese and instructed them to do everything in their power to avoid arriving at that final instance.

This ruling lasted until 1938, when, still during the Spanish Civil War (but with the Basque Country having fallen to the military rebels), the nascent Franco regime banned the use of Basque names outright.

July 15, 1738: Church ruling on knowledge of Basque in Navarre

Francisco Ignacio Añoa y Busto (1684-1764)

On July 15, 1738, the bishop of Pamplona-Iruñea, Francisco Añoa (from Viana) decreed that no receiver who did not speak Basque should be allowed to work in Navarre. Receivers were functionaries who received and collated all kinds of information about legal disputes and judicial business. The decree was made following a long dispute between the receiver Juan José Huarte, a non-Basque speaker, and several Basque-speaking locals in Izaba, which ultimately resulted in Huarte being removed because he could not communicate with the local people with whom he was obliged to work. In this general dispute, non-Basque-speaking receptors suggested hiring interpreters, but this idea was rejected by the Civil Courts of Navarre because of the “difficulty of understanding the scope of the words” and because there were perfectly qualified Basque-speaking receptors to do the work. Interestingly, Gipuzkoa did hire interpreters because legally it belonged to the Chancellery of Valladolid in Castile.

Information sourced from Iñaki Egaña, Mil noticias insólitas del país de los vascos(Tafalla: Txalaparta, 2001), pp. 139-40.

May 6, 1542: Francis Xavier arrives in Goa

On May 6, 1542, Francis Xavier, the first Jesuit missionary, arrived in Goa as part of a Portuguese mission to spread the faith in its new territories in the East Indies.  His primary goal was to  restore Christianity among European settlers in Goa, which had been a Portuguese possession for some thirty years. But ultimately, he extended his mission in attempts to convert the local population as well.

A Japanese depiction of Francis Xavier, dated to the 17th century. From the Kobe City Museum collection. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Francis Xavier–Francisco de Jasso y Azpilicueta–was born in Xabier (Javier) in the Kingdom of Navarre in 1506. The son of the seneschal (steward) of Xabier Castle and a high-ranking official at the royal court, he had a privileged upbringing. But ruin befell the family after the conquest of Navarre by Castile in 1512. Remaining loyal to an independent Navarre, his older brothers were involved in a failed plot to oust the Castilians. In retribution, the family lands were confiscated, the outer wall, gates, and two towers of the family castle destroyed, and its moat filled in.  Too young to participate in these events, Francis was sent to Paris to study. There he encountered Ignatius of Loyola and ultimately the two of them, along with five others, would take the famous vows of poverty and chastity as well as loyalty to the Pope at Montmartre, Paris in 1534 (the forerunner act to the establishment of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuit order). Francis was ultimately ordained in 1537 and, following a request in 1540 by King John of Portugal for Christian missionaries to go to Asia, was chosen by Loyola to undertake the task.

Xabier Castle in Navarre. Photo by Jsanchezes, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

He enjoyed mixed fortunes in his quest.  Starting in Goa and Portuguese India more broadly, he subsequently traveled further east, evangelizing in Malacca, the Maluku Islands, and Japan. Returning to Malacca and Goa in late 1551 and early 1552, he then set out on a new mission to China. Reaching  the island of Shangchuan in August 1552, he set about making plans to travel across to the mainland, but he was subsequently taken ill and died from a fever on December 3 that same year.

Body of Saint Francis Xavier in a silver casket of Basilica of Bom Jésus in Goa. Photo by Gaius Cornelius, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

He was beatified by Paul V in 1619 and canonized by Gregory XV in 1622 (at the same time as fellow Basque Ignatius Loyola).  Pius XI proclaimed him the “Patron of Catholic Missions” and his feast day is December 3. His relics are kept in a silver casket, elevated inside the Bom Jesus Basilica in Goa.

Easter vacation festivities come to the Basque Country

The Baiona Ham Festival

The Easter vacation is becoming an increasingly important time for the growing leisure sector in the Basque Country. This week, traditional religious celebrations coinciding with Easter itself will be held,  in which towns like Durango (with its famous pasinue) and Balmaseda in Bizkaia as well as others all over the Basque Country take center stage.  But there are also a number of other activities taking place to cater for the increasing number of tourists who visit at this time of year. One of the biggest events takes place in Bilbao. The Basque Fest is a specially designed festival combining Basque traditions and gastronomy that seeks to introduce visitors to the wonderful world of Basque culture in all its facets, from traditional Basque sports to music and dance as well as, of course, food and drink. Staying on a similar theme, Baiona also hosts a wonderful festival of its own this week: the Baiona Ham Festival, a must see event for all aficionados of this famous Basque delicacy. Such festivities are, though, just the tip of the iceberg. Towns and cities all over the Basque Country will be celebrating this important holiday season in many and varied ways.

April 7, 1767: Jesuits expelled from Basque Country

Following a meeting by a commission convened by King Charles III on January 29, 1767, it was decided to expel members of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, from all lands belonging to the Spanish crown. The decision was made on the basis of the perceived threat of the Jesuits to royal authority. On April 7, 1767, the corregidor–the king’s representative–communicated the royal command to the public authorities in Bizkaia and the Jesuit residence in Bilbao,  San Andrés college, was immediately occupied by law enforcement officers and there gathered Jesuits from Lekeitio, Urduña/Orduña, Vitoria-Gasteiz, and Logroño. On May 3 they boarded two waiting ships in the Olabeaga neighborhood that would transport them to Civitavecchia, outside Rome.

Pedro de Calatayud (1698-1773).

Among those expelled was Pedro de Calatayud, a member of the Bilbao order from Tafalla, Navarre, and the author of a controversial book some years previously in which he criticized traders, shipowners, and iron foundry owners in Bizkaia for their excessive greed and usury, even branding them “public sinners.”  In retaliation, these business interests in Bizkaia began a campaign against him with the aim of getting the book banned or at least condemned by the Church. This campaign lasted some twenty years before, finally, in 1766 the work was indeed banned. Calatayud appealed against the ban, but the expulsion order brought an end to the matter. Calatayud died in Bologna in 1773.

Information sourced from Iñaki Egaña, Mil noticias insólitas del país de los vascos (Tafalla: Txalaparta, 2001), p. 146.

 

Wentworth Webster: An Englishman in Lapurdi

Wentworth Webster (1828-1907), one of the forerunners of Basque Studies in English.

Wentworth Webster was one of the discrete forerunners of our very own discipline here at the Center: Basque Studies in English. Born in 1828, Webster studied at Oxford University and, after a spell of ill health, was ordained as an Anglican clergyman in 1861. Following his ordination, and posts that took him to both Egypt and Bagnères-de-Bigorre (Banhèras de Bigòrra) in Occitania, France, he accepted a post as chaplain of the newly established Anglican church of Donibane Lohizune (Saint-Jean-de-Luz), where he would serve between 1869 and 1882. During this time he and his wife had five children, who all grew up speaking Basque among their languages, and he took a keen interest in Basque culture. He was especially interested in the Basque language and traditional stories and folk tales, which he enthusiastically gathered with the help of fellow scholar Jules Vinson. The result of this initial research was the publication of Basque Legends (London: Griffith and Farran, 1877).

He later resigned his post and moved to Sara, from where he continued to research and write on many Basque-related topics, frequently publishing his findings in British journals of the period, as well as reprinting Pierre d’Urte’s 1712 Basque grammar (1900) and publishing a memoir, Les Loisirs d’un étranger au Pays basque (Châlons-sur-Saöne: Imprimerie française et orientale E. Bertrand, 1901).  In March 1907, the visiting King of England, Edward VII, attended a game of pelota in Sara in Webster’s honor, but the elderly clergyman was too weak to attend the game, eventually dying a month later.

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