Photo: Workers, flanked by Guardia Civil, load up the artwork (Credit: ACN)
By Alvar Llobet, Nacio Digital
December 11th, 2017
The Monastery of Vilanova de Sixena will open its doors this Tuesday, to show the artworks, which until now have been in the Museum of Lleida. Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution was the shortcut that allowed the pieces to change hands, after the Guardia Civil arrived in the capital of El Segrià in the morning to enforce a ruling by a judge from Huesca, a substitute magistrate who was in position until Monday. The famous and controversial dispute of Sixena, without a final ruling, has ended (pending the presentation of an appeal to the Supreme Court by the Consortium of the Museum of Lleida) almost abruptly, with the Minister of Culture in exile, in the middle of an unusual, tense and polarized election campaign.
Sixena’s conflict has fueled the confrontation between blocs as the second week of campaigning begins. Pro-Independence groups have criticized the State’s desire to “inflict damage” – according to Carles Puigdemont from Brussels – taking advantage of the application of 155 while the PSC – which endorsed the intervention of the State into Catalan self-government after the proclamation of the Republic – has been heavily criticized after they publically lamented the departure of the artwork from Lleida, the county capital which they co-govern with the Ciutdans (Citizens) Party. Citizens, Inés Arrimadas’s party, has always defended, without nuances, the transfer of the pieces to Aragon.
Angel Ros, vilified
The indignation about the transfer of the pieces of sacred art has become apparent in Lleida, and for no one more than Mayor Angel Ros, who had to leave the Museum before the sun had even risen, after being picked upon by a group of people, who accused him and his party of causing this situation, by swallowing the application of article 155. The mayor of Lleida has in fact been very vocal about this misuse of the Constitution – and reminded the crowd of the many letters sent to the Minister of Culture, Íñigo Méndez de Vigo, to avoid the removal of the works, but his political reputation nonetheless has suffered a new setback. The PSC will likely pay for this on December 21 in the ballot boxes. Already in the county of Lleida, a fierce struggle is on, for every seat in parliament.
Puigdemont accused the Socialists of turning their backs as the removals happened, in a fiery speech broadcast by his coalition parth Together for Catalonia – while Republicans Joan Tarda and Mireia Boya, railed on the socialist leader. They referred to the outcome of the Sixena litigation as a “plundering”, “looting” or an act of “piracy.” While the pro-sovereignty groups fueled the attacks on the 155 bloc, art technicians – protected by a massive police deployment – loaded the museum collection into a truck, which undertook the removal. Shortly after 2:00 pm, the works made off for Sixena among shouts, insults and car horns through the streets of the capital of El Segrià.
Photo: The transfer of the works to the Monastery of Sixena (Photo: ACN)
Protesters and Mossos d’Esquadra (Catalan Police) were involved in tense scenes along the Rambla Aragó de Lleida. The Museum of Lleida displayed the pieces from Sixena with the legitimacy given to them by the sales made between 1983 and 1994, by the religious order of the monastery. Aragón requested that these sales be canceled, and the Court of Huesca ruled in their favour, a decision criticized by the director of the Museum of Lleida, Josep Giralt. “Justice has not been done,” he said on Monday.
After an hour’s journey, the works reached their destination. The government of Aragon and the members of the “Sijena Sí” platform were euphoric as the workers entered the monastery’s. Celebration of the “victory” was not unanimous across the executive of Zaragoza, and some criticism was made of the conservationists. The Minister of Culture, Mayte Pérez, explained that some of the pieces had deteriorated in condition and said they only found 43 of the 44 claimed pieces. Giralt denied this, after leaving the museum, with his workers, visibly moved, to thank the supporters holding vigil at the doors, all of them outraged and resigned, except one. A man with a Aragonese flag around his neck claimed that today he would raise a toast for what was about to happen and that it had finally all ended. The shelves which held the pieces, cast a lot less shadow than before.
Photo: The works are no longer in the Museum (Credit: @ADIC_Cultura)
Photo: Some of the supports which held alabasters from Sixena (Credit: Alberto Velasco)