Creus i Oratoris


Quatre creus de marbre rosa subsisteixen dins Vinçà. Algunes comporten la data de llur erecció i el nom del comendatari.  Així, una creu danyada, no exposada dins el poble, esculpida a principi del segle XV, portava l’inscripció en català « Mossen Guille(m) Riba, alias Maco, ma feta fer ».

Els oratoris, llocs de devoció popular, de recollement i de pregaria, ritmen el paisatge de Vinçà que en compta 27. Agençats en l’honor de sants cristians, enclouen estàtues de vegades ingènues, sovint refinades , les més antiques podent datar dels segles XVII i XVIII .

Cum les creus dels camins, llur emplaçament va ésser curosament escollit de manera a orientar el viatger cap el camí d’un pelegrinatge, d’una esglésiao d’un poble, a un cruîlla o al pas d’un coll. En els llocs més llunyans, els oratoris permetien recollir-se  a prop d’un sant sense anar a l’esglésa. La contrucció d’un oratori constitueix un agraîment o una ofrena a un sant en canvi de la seva protecció invocada en funció del seus atributs.

Alguns són particularment venerats a Vinçà , tals com la Verge, Sant Sebastià que protegeix de les epidemies, Sant Galdric patró del agricultors i amo de les aigües , Sant Antoni de Padoue per recobrar la salut o atorgar una prometença.

Vinça, Gateway to the Baronnie

Vinça, Gateway to the Baronnie

Vinça is situated near the “Via Confluentana”, the ancient Roman road which linked the Mediteranean coast to the highlands of Cerdagne and Capcir. Vinça is first mentioned “Castrum Vincanum” in a latin text of 939 AD and agin as “Vincianum”in 950AD.

The castle of Joch was the residence of the Viscount of Conflent and the headquarters of the Barony of Joch which included Vinça and the neighbouring villages.

Medieval Cellars 

The church of Saint Julien and Sainte Baselisse is mentioned for the first time in 1043. Around the church in an area 30 feet wide, there was a collection of store rooms, la cellera, which became the original nucleus of the village and provided storage for crops as well as shelter for the inhabitants of the neighbourhood during time of violence and war.

Royal city 

In 1172 during the reign of Alphonse the Chaste, Count of Barcelona and king of Aragon, Vinça which up until then, had been possession of the Counts of Cerdagne, became a royal city. In 1245 outer walls were built and four gates provided entry to the city .Two of these are still intact and well maintained, as is a good section of the original ramparts.

In the heart of lower Conflent.

In the course of time the village grew to include new boroughs : ”Le Puig”, ”le Barri del camp”, ”le carrer Nou” (the new road), then in the XIXth century the fairground, and at the beginning of the XXth century the buildings which now house the Town Hall, the Post Office, the former tax office were constructed (plus the public bath).

The public baths of Nossa : Thanks to the sulphur springs on the river the “bains de Nossa“ were built between 1810-1822. This splendid establishment flourished until 1932 and was demolished when the new dam was built and a new bridge constructed over the river Têt in the 1960’s.

The plain that extends around Vinça is watered by the river Têt and the Lentilla ,both provide vital irrigation for the cultivation of the many fruit trees :peaches, apricots ,cherries and apples which have been essential to the economy of the community .

At the beginning the the XXth century a culture of wine production was developed in lower Conflent and in 1929 the cooperative cellar was built.This enabled the wine producers to increase the value of their creations .Today ,the various types of grapes have allowed the evolution of wines classified as AOP” Côtes du Roussillon “and IGP “Côtes Catalanes”

Heritage :Vinça is well provided with beamed houses , oratories , fountains , an ancient hospice the Carmelite convent and the church which is home to a wealth of baroque art as well as its celebrated organ built by JP Cavaillé in 1765,all of whic testify to the rich heritage of Vinça .

The village includes the hamlet of Sahorle and its church dedicated to Saint Marie Madeleine .

The Pierre Gipulo Buildings

The Pierre Gipulo buildings

Architects Felix Mercader and Samuel Banyuls

In 1932, Jean Gobern, mayor of Vinça, decided that as the town hall was in such a poor state, it needed to be replaced. On 21st November 1932, he suggested to his local council that a new site  be purchased for the building of a new Town Hall which would serve not only as the mayor’s offices but also include a court house, a concert hall, a youth club and a post office. Due to a conflict with the management of the Post Office the project was delayed and only completed at the end of Mayor Govern’s mandate. On 15th June 1935, the newly elected mayor, Pierre Gipulo, and his team re-defined the whole project to incorporate not only the Mayor’s offices but also a court of the first instance, the tax collection office, the public Assembly rooms and the Post Office. The cost of this vast enterprise was 424 443,34 francs. Felix Mercader‘s architectural criteria of social and hygienic elements are clearly evident in the functional design of the completed building. The acoustics were carefully respected in the overall construction of the hall so that the performance of plays and the screening of films could be accommodated. As a precaution against an aerial attack, it was decided that a secure strong room should be built in the basement to house essential archival materials and documents. The entire complex was completed in 1937.

During the German occupation Pierre Gipulo was very active in the ”Resistance”. He was arrested in April 1944 and sent to Buchenwald and later to Bergen-Belsen; he died shortly after the camp was liberated on 11th May1945. He was awarded the Cross of the Legion d’Honneur posthumously.

The Main Street

The Main Street

On the central square “Placa Major” of medieval times, now place Bernard Alart-there is a remarkable flagstone building which housed the Town hall and the offices of the Justice of the Peace until 1937. The main street-now Michel Touron – was bordered on each side with substantial residences of the “notable“ of the town. These fine houses were often built on the same basic plan : a wide arched entrance of marble or freestone topped with the insignia of the owner, opened to a passage leading to a central patio which was often paved with small pebbles (calades) arranged in an attractive ornamental pattern. A grand staircase led to the reception rooms which overlooked the main street. The ground floor was commonly devoted to storerooms and workshops.

Half timbered houses : Some of these houses were half timbered .Rather than having load- bearing walls strengthened with river pebbles, the “out of plumb “ facade was composed of a “corbelled” front which respected the technique of over-hanging structures. Many of these houses date back to the seventeenth century, and even earlier. The quality of their architecture testifies of the importance of Vinça in the Middles Ages and indeed up to the Modern period. At number 9 rue Michel Touron there was a convent of the sisters of the Holy Sacrament; it later became a private school.

*the term “encorbellement” is derived from the ancient French word “corbel”(corbeau); it means a coping stone or timber which projects from a wall to support an architectural feature, such as overhanging beams for a roof, floor unit or other features. 

The Fortified Gates

The fortified gates

Vinça, ”the royal city of Vinça“, was a royal city from 1172 to 1356, then again from 1586 until the end  of the French Revolution. In1245, James the first the Conqueror, Count of Barcelona and King of Aragon, granted to the inhabitants of Vinça exemption from the seigniorial taxes (exorquia, cugucia, intestia) on the condition that the outer walls were built. In order to cover this expense the members of the Labour Relations Boards of that time were permitted to levy a tithe on crops, produce harvested, wool, meat, grapes, oil and other good.

In 1361 Peter the Ceremonious authorised the collection of tolls (“barras”) at the gates of the city to finance the repair of the walls. These outer walls, 500 meters long, enclosed the core that remains of the old village.

At that time four gates led to the surrounding villages:

  • to the south, the gate of Joch. It no longer exists.
  • to the west, the gate of the “Puig“ which gave onto the modern road to Prades, of which part of the arch only remains.
  • to the north, the well preserved gate of “Barri del Prat“ opened up to the road to Perpignan.
  • to the east, the gate of “Marcevol”which is still intact, led to the route to Marcevol.

These two latter gates have statues of the Virgin, hence the name given to our village “Vinça the Pious“.

Today 80 meters of the outer wall testify to what these constructions were like; they mostly date back to the second half of the XIVth century.

The Fair Ground

The fair ground

On 7th July 1844, the Municipality, under the mandate of Dominique Verges bought a parcel of land, known as the “Amoreres” for 3000 francs in order to create a fairground which was later enlarged and planted with plane trees in 1847.

The cattle fair:

For the festival of Saint Andrew, at the end of November every year, the fairground was very lively and always attracted great crowds. Horses, cattle and sheep were traded and the main street was taken over by merchants who did a roaring trade.

The development of the fairground:

Very soon shopkeepers, craftsmen and a blacksmith set up their trades around the fairground and in 1857 the primary school was built .That same year the plane trees were planted and an income of 850 Francs from the sale of wood paid for the installation of the benches, a beautiful fountain and a luxuriant lawn; electricity lightning was installed in the side aisles and a public wash house topped by a solid roof was built; it no longer exists.

Vinça “en fête”:

In the 1950’s throughout the weekend of the church patron saints feast day, a fun fair with roundabouts came to the fairground; this gave great pleasure to all the children who came attired in their best clothes .Since 2012, a “cattle breeders” fair has been a feature on the site every May. This maintains the tradition of the great fairs of the past, a return to its original purpose.

The Church of Saorla (Sahorle): Saint Madeleine

The church of Saint Julien and Sainte Baselisse

In 1600 the inhabitants of Saorla(Sahorle) expressed the need for a church closer to them than the parochial one in Vinça. In order to finance such a project the Viscount of Joch, master of the hamlet gave them permission to levy various taxes in their community. The construction of the church began a few years later as is evident from the date of 1628 on its Conflent marble font. In 1629 a mass was celebrated by the curate of Joch in spite of the prerogative which the priests in Vinça had to administer the sacraments to the inhabitants of Saorla. At the end of 1646 the case had not still been resolved by the metropolitan Court of Tarragona and the two sides, weary of the expenses and costs  involved, agreed to settle their differences out of court, thanks to the Viscountess of Joch. Earlier, Gregory Parcero,Bishop of Elne had granted permission to celebrate the mass in Saorla.

The church is dedicated to Saint Madeleine, probably to perpetuate the devotions in her memory as her chapel in the hermitage of Nantilla had been abandoned. Inside Saint Madeleine is shown with her luxuriant hair, stretched out in contemplation in her grotto.There are also the remains of an altar piece from 1710, a statue of Saint Galdric and two small statues of Saints Peter and Paul.

The Church of Saint Julien and Sainte Baselisse

The church of Saint Julien and Sainte Baselisse

Classified as an historical monument on the 27th of January 1987.

A church is first mentioned in Vinça in1043.Thanks to a legacy given in 1686 by a rich merchant from Perpignan, Don Carlos Perpinyà i Solera who was originally from Vinça, a more substantial church was built between 1734 and 1769. The walls are constructed of boulders and stones and the wide neo classic entrance is made of local pink marble, topped by full-length statues of the two saints who gave their names to the church. The doors are richly decorated with ornamental fittings in a spiral motif. The bolt is covered in snake-like scales and the head ends in the shape of a mythical animal. These remarkably rust-resistant attachments are made of iron from the mountains of Canigó and are part of what remains of an earlier church on the site. Inside, the church boasts several outstanding examples of Baroque altarpieces, of which the altarpiece in the right hand chapel is a masterpiece, made in 1697 by the sculptor Jean-Jacques Melair, it is unique in north Catalonia for its depiction of the Transfiguration. Other pre-Baroque, neo-Gothic and neo-classical altarpieces adorn the side chapels. An exceptional  finely decorated pulpit of the late sixteenth century together with seventeenth and eighteenth century paintings complete this remarkable collection.

The semi circular Republican pediment above the entrance was added in 1905 and was restored in 2012.

The Carmel, a Private Place of Silence and Peace

The Carmel, a private place of silence and peace

The Carmelite convent in Vinça was originally, in the late sixteenth century, a branch of the Capuchin community in Prades, at a time when Franciscan monks were a strong presence in Roussillon. The convent was a modest one-story building with a chapel dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin. The Capuchins were well integrated in the community and supported the inhabitants during the period when plagues were common and Spanish and French troops passed through the region, while continuing their preaching and receiving confessions. In 1793 the capuchins were expelled from their convent and it was sold as a national property. In 1841 the Molins family purchased it and returned it to its vocation. On November 11th 1861 with the help of the then bishop of Perpignan, Montsignor Gerbet, mother Mathilde de L’Enfant Jesus came from Nice to establish a convent of Carmelites who obeyed the reforms of Saint Theresa d’Avila. They, in turn, were expelled in 1901 but returned in 1920 to re-establish the presence of God by their life of prayer ,in the village. Their mission and vocation continues today.

The “poor house“ Saint Sebastian

The “poor house“ Saint Sebastian

In the early fourteenth century, Jean Quinta, the priest of the village, bequeathed a property to the people of Vinça to have a new “poorhouse” built, the existing one being too small to meet the needs of the community. The “poor house“ accommodated pilgrims as well as people who were destitute; it did not have a medical function. However, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the institution began to provide care for the people who were ill in an ambience which respected the Christian values of charity and solidarity. Throughout the nineteenth century and into the first half of the twentieth century it continued to maintain its responsibility and care for the infirm people. When the iron mines of “La Pinosa” in Velmanya were active, injured minors were taken care of at the “poor house”. It only had 11 beds and conditions were very precarious. In 1905 the law which separated the Church and the State dealt a fatal blow to the establishment. Its doors were closed for good in 1955; it became a Youth Hostel which operated until the end of the 1970’s.

The chapel adjoining the poorhouse is dedicated to Saint Sebastian, the patron saint of plague victims; it was built in 1459. A novena takes place every year from January 20th. In the choir of the chapel there is an altarpiece and many panels on the side walls testify to the generosity of those who made donations to the “poorhouse”. Above the entrance door, there is a niche which hosts a statue of the Virgin, it was installed in 1529, at the end of the Great Plague.