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Jacint Verdaguer

Narcís Garolera (Universitat Pompeu Fabra)


Jacint Verdaguer i Santaló was born in Folgueroles (in the Osona region of Catalonia) on 17 May 1845. His parents were modest but relatively cultured country people. At the age of ten he entered the Vic Seminary, where he took ecclesiastical studies. He was ordained as a priest in 1870 and celebrated his first mass in the chapel of Sant Jordi de Puigseslloses. From 1863 to 1871 he resided at the "can Tona" farmhouse, halfway between Vic and Folgueroles and here he produced his first literary works.

Folgueroles, 1845 - Vallvidrera, 1902. Poet and priest

After a short time as parish priest at Vinyoles d'Orís (1871-1873), and afflicted by severe headaches, he spent two years plying between Spain and Cuba as a ship's priest on the steamers of the Companyia Transatlàntica, property of Antoni López, the future Marquis of Comillas. In 1877, Verdaguer became the family chaplain and six years later he was entrusted with the position of almoner. In the more than fifteen years that he lived in the Comillas Palace on the Barcelona Rambla, he had the opportunity of mingling with personalities from Catalan and Spanish high society, and also going on long excursions through the Pyrenees, staying in the spas and residences belonging to the Marquis, and making long journeys through North Africa, the Central European countries and the Middle East, which he later described in his literature.

In 1886, on his return from a journey to the Holy Land, he underwent a spiritual crisis, which made him long for purification and asceticism. This was accompanied by an increase in the duties of his ministry and, in particular, those pertaining to his job as almoner. After 1889 he was in contact with clairvoyants and exorcists and would soon begin to proselytise these activities that were not exactly recommended by the Church and prohibited by the Bishop of Barcelona. When Verdaguer was in debt after purchasing a property at Vallcarca, where he wanted to save an already-existing chapel and establish a place of prayer and penitence, Claudi López, the second Marquis of Comillas decided to dispense with his services as almoner priest and, with the help of the bishops of Barcelona and Vic, Català i Morgades respectively, he organised Verdaguer's transfer to Vic, under the pretext of his needing a rest cure. In May 1893, after some days at the Episcopal palace of Vic, Verdaguer went to live at the Virgin's shrine at Gleva (in the Osona region), where he would remain two years.

In April 1895, and disobeying the orders of his bishop, he left Gleva and settled again in Barcelona, this time in the home of the Duran family - a widow and two daughters - whom he had met some years earlier. In June he published a communiqué in the Barcelona press declaring "before the honourable people" of the city that he had been the victim of unjust persecution. Morgades then prohibited him from celebrating mass and carrying out his priestly functions. Verdaguer responded to this proscription with a series of newspaper articles "in self-defence", causing a great uproar. The confrontation between the poet priest, his superior in the Church, the marquis who had taken him in and other close friends and relatives (Canon Jaume Collell and the lawyer - his cousin -Narcís Verdaguer i Callís), acquired a social dimension that went beyond the strictly ecclesiastical domain. It was a huge scandal. The "Verdaguer case" became the centre of opposing political and social interests. Two years later he delivered a second series of articles to the press that were even more virulent and belligerent than the first. At the end of 1897, however, thanks to the intervention of the Augustine fathers of El Escorial and the Bishop of Madrid, Morgades agreed to a reconciliation, which was formalised with his acceptance of a written retraction by Verdaguer. The following January the latter's priestly functions were restored. Continue reading...

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