Monday, October 18

Documents from the 19th century open the fight for the ownership of an iconic medieval sanctuary in the Valencian territory

The hermitage of Sant Joan de Penyagolosa, one of the most important spiritual centers in the Valencian territory, is registered in the name of the Bishopric of Segorbe-Castellón. However, some documents from the mid-19th century found in the archives of the Vistabella City Council point to a dispute over municipal ownership of a hermitage located at the foot of the mythical Penyagolosa peak. The diocese and the session do not agree on the interpretation of the documents.

The file, available in the repository of the Universitat Jaume I (UJI) of Castellón, refers to the “rental of the farmhouse of San Juan de Peñagolosa”. Among the documentation are the “bases proposed to the Magnificent City Council of Vistabella for the good administration of the Sanctuary of San Juan de Peñagolosa”.

The mayor of Vistabella del Maestrat, Jordi Alcón, maintains that in the town “there has always been the belief that Sant Joan belonged to the town.” “We do not have any writing but everything that is public has no writing,” laments the first mayor, Compromís, in a telephone conversation with

Alcón acknowledges that Vistabella, a town with just 333 inhabitants, does not have “legal capacity” to claim, although he assures that the consistory is exploring ways to recover the property, in line with the steps of the central government in matters of ecclesiastical registration.

The bishopric of Segorbe Castellón maintains three hermitages and the Parish Church of the Assumption of Our Lady, according to the official list published by the Government. The Center d’Estudis del Penyagolosa manages, together with the consistory, the municipal archive in which the documents have appeared, some in poor condition.

In fact, according to the mayor, part of the documentation has been restored by the Valencian Institute for the Conservation and Recovery of Cultural Assets (Ivacor). After the restoration process, the documentation has been digitized with the help of the Jaume I University of Castellón. “We are still collecting information and looking at what is appearing,” says the first mayor of the town.

The sanctuary inn, closed since the last tenants folded candles in September 2018, is in the process of being restored thanks to an agreement between the bishopric and the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Castellón Provincial Council, the two public institutions that assume total expenses. In exchange, the Church cedes the management of this heritage jewel, of medieval origin but with subsequent neoclassical and baroque extensions. “A lot of money has been generated over a long time and it has not been reinvested there,” slides the mayor of Compromís.

“A shrine is not going to belong to a town hall, it is a drawer”

The media delegate for the Diocese of Segorbe-Castellón does not share this view. In fact, he denies the greatest. “They are not documents, it is simply a type of book that refers to a board of trustees, which were typical or characteristic of a specific time,” the spokesperson said in statements to this newspaper. “Some institution was committed to managing something,” he adds.

The diocese defends that Sant Joan de Penyagolosa has always belonged to the Church. “It is not the same to be the owner than to manage, the property belongs to the diocese,” he assures. It also reveals that the documentation has been studied by the delegation of Heritage of the diocese, which has validated the thesis that the sanctuary is property of the Church. Thus, the documentation “does not change ownership or ownership.”

“A sanctuary is not going to belong to a town hall, it is a drawer, just as a town hall does not belong to the Church,” says the media delegate from the Diocese of Segorbe-Castellón. The spokesman also shows his surprise that these documents now come to light, when the agreement for the rehabilitation of the hostel is on track (the documents emerged in a trunk half abandoned in municipal offices in 2012, although much of the material has had to be restored). “It is striking that this news now comes out,” he says in reference to the information provided by Cadena Ser de Castellón.

Several Valencian towns have been investigating the ownership of the property unregistered by the Church as a result of the publication of the official list. In Valencia, the ecclesiastical institution registered the Micalet tower in 2014, despite its civil use.

In Nàquera, the hermitage ceded by the Marquis de Boils to the town in 1886 was also registered in the name of the Parish of Our Lady of the Incarnation, according to the documentation consulted by this newspaper in the Massamagrell Land Registry.

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