This issue’s limited edition print by Ladd P. Ehlinger is of the Cathedral of Ciudadella (also spelled Ciutadella in Spanish), an ancient city on the west end of the Island of Menorca. Menorca (the “little one” in Catalan, its’ primary language) is one of the four Balearic Islands (also spelled Minorca in Castillian or Spanish as we call it). The other three islands are Mallorca (the “large one”, also spelled Majorca in Castillian), Formentera and Ibiza. Menorca is about a 20 minute jet flight and lies east southeast from Barcelona in the Mediterranean. The island has been inhabited by man since prehistoric times, and has served as a provisioning trading outpost and base for pirates because of its strategic location in the middle of the Mediterranean sea lanes. Today it is mostly fishing and tourism that drive its economy.
In the first days of the year 1287 a fact of capital importance changed the course of the history of the island of Menorca: the conquest of the Muslims in Menorca by the forces of the King of Aragon. Menorca was thus re-incorporated into the Christian orbit tied to European civilization definitively through the language, the religion, the laws and the customs, by a Christian and Mediterranean king, Alfons the Liberal, of Aragon on the Iberian peninsula.
The king, Alfons III, wanted to give grace to the good occasion that happened with the conquest of Menorca on February 2, the feast of the Purification of Our Lady, so he had celebrated a mass in thanks in Ciudadella. And in that thanksgiving act he gave the Church of Ciudadella an investiture of the highest importance, so it was constituted the rector with the primary position and authority over all the churches of the island.
The new church built by Alfons III, S. Levantó, is in the location that was occupied by the main mosque of the Muslim medina and the minaret on the east served as the base of the tower steeple. The works of the nine bays were begun almost all at once and as they unfolded through the XIV century in a diverse rhythm, the theme was already partly in service and apparent in the first decades of the century. They express several ecclesiastical concepts in the side altars of these bays of the church.
At the end of the century, the King Joan (John) confirmed his predecessor’s authorization, Pere the Ceremonious One, to condemn some houses with the intention of enlarging the church that was still under construction. Even so, the church is tightly constricted site-wise and is difficult to see in its entirety as the city of Ciudadella has very narrow streets as do most Gothic cities.
Why Menorca? Genealogy. The author’s grandmother’s (paternal) ancestors came to New Orleans in the early 1830’s from the city of Maó (also spelled Mahon in Castillian) on the other end of the island. It is an interesting place well worth seeing with a long and colorful history — for instance, Maó is the place where mayonnaise was invented (the French stole it) as a sauce for the plentiful lobster in the waters surrounding Menorca, and a woman from Maó is said to be a “Mayonnesa.”
Ladd P. Ehlinger AIA