Chapel of St Vincent Ferrer

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18th century

Ermita de San VicenteSaint Vincent Ferrer is a Spanish saint born in Valencia in 1350, and died in Venne (France) on April 5th, 1419. He joined the Dominican friars and soon enjoyed the reputation of a saint and miracle worker. Thirty-five years after his death he was officially declared saint and his devotion quickly spread all over Spain and its territories.

We have no information about when or how this devotion reached Peraleda de la Mata, but we do know when his chapel appeared. In a book of minutes of the Brotherhood of St Mark, in the now extinct village of Malhincada, we see a note from the bishop ordering this brotherhood to donate 500 maravedis (that time’s currency) for the building of a chapel to this saint in Peraleda. This is due to the fact that both Malhincada and Peraleda were then part of the same Council of La Mata and belonged to the same parish, site in St Mary’s, a solitary church whose ruins can still be seen 4 kms north of Peraleda. The parish priest, nevertheless, lived by then in Peraleda, so that makes sense.

Consequently in 1734 a chapel was built on the outskirts of Peraleda dedicated to St Vincent, upon a little hill which was soon named after him “St Vincent’s hill”. We suppose by this time the Brotherhood of Saint Vincent was already in place and they were the ones starting the works, since, two years later, in 1736, we have a book of minutes from this brotherhood informing of the renewal of the brotherhood’s Elder.

In 1783 a lightning stroke the chapel and caused serious damage, but the Brotherhood had no problems repairing it again. Up to that moment we see that the Brotherhood is thriving, but soon after, political events will strip them of their incomes, starting a quick decadence. In 1789 Charles IV ordered the confiscation of all goods from ecclesiastical institutions. As a result, the following year the diocese ordered that “on the saint’s day the mass should not be with a deacon anymore, nor should the chapel be illuminated on a daily basis so as to save expenses”.

From that moment the Brotherhood is nowhere to be seen. The devotion for St Vincent, nevertheless, goes on, especially in times of drought, when farmers go to his chapel to pray for the rain.

San VicenteIn 1936, during the Civil War, the chapel was badly damaged because nearby, on the hill, a battery of artillery is placed and some bombs impacted, leaving the building in a dilapidated condition. We suppose the original image of the saint was burnt together with the other images from the church. The chapel, or rather its remains, served since then as shelter to the many tramps and beggars wandering about our villages in those tough post-war years.

It was in 1952, during a drought, when a group of peasant women led by Eufemia Rufo and Maria Martin (a.k.a. Chicorra), asked the parish priest to get the chapel repaired and a new image bought so the old traditions could be revived. But the parish was also going through very difficult times and money was not available, so the priest kindly refused the request. This did not deter the determined women, who went from door to door asking people money for the reconstruction of the chapel and for the new image.

They managed to raise the funds, the chapel was repaired and the present image of St Vincent set in place. Nevertheless, the priest did not want to have novenas made there, so these women, again, decided to take the matter into their own hands and led those religious services themselves, and so is still made.

For all that, this little chapel stands today as a memorial to the dreams and courage -and persistence- of those peasant women and the cooperation of the whole town.





Escrito por Angel Castaño

Apóyanos con tu firma para salvar el Dolmen de Guadalperal y también para salvar el retablo esgrafiado de Peraleda.

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