If today it seems complicated for someone under one hundred years of age to remember the old Contrast, illuminating the meaning of the strange graffiti that adorned its facade is as arduous a task as understanding the demolition of that heritage jewel that was, by the way and for Shame on us, National Monument. Come on, the first Murcian building that achieved this cataloging in 1922.
Let’s go by parts, to digest so much unreason. Let’s stand in the great square of the city, that of Santa Catalina, with its arcaded church that would later become the current simple repair temple and its haughty tower where the official clock, the only one in the city, ruled and the bell to ring It remains, the one that announced great glory, floods or the arrival of invaders to the city.
In the same place where kings were proclaimed sometimes, festivals other times and always the parties, there was also the headquarters of the knights, the arms room of the city, a building later known until its ruin as the Contrast of the Silk.
They called it silk because it ruled the rich silk business, the one that allowed an immense economic and urban development to Murcia and that we let lose without blinking a moment, as we usually do. There the gold and silver coins since the Catholic Monarchs were ‘contrasted’, by way of inflexible public inspection. Come on, the day before yesterday.
They weren’t dirty
It took seven years, from 1601 to 1608, to raise the building, which had a third floor made up of a gallery of arches that the 1827 earthquake, without being an elected councilor although it might seem so, collapsed. Almost a century later the State declared the building a National Monument. All the more reason, some mayor must have thought, to condemn him to the pick-ax. And that happened only a decade later, in 1933, although some researcher thinks it was a year earlier.
The collapse of the Contrast also eliminated some strange inscriptions on its façade that, for generations, many Murcians believed were crude brush strokes made, as the journalist Martínez Tornel wrote in 1880, “by broad brush painters to test the paintings.”
They were wrong. These alleged rubbish were the most appreciated honor that a Murcian could receive, a kind of stone social network, accessible by all who knew to read, as supported and boisterous as the current ones, and just as omnipresent in that kind of virtual heart that was Santa Catalina for our ancestors.
With red blood ink
The people knew them as cheers and they were the result of a true universal suffrage, a kind of apotheosis of unknown merit or a testimony of special recognition or mockery, as the case may be. Some author locates its origin in the inscriptions that during the Middle Ages announced the new doctorates on the walls of the Cathedral of Salamanca. Thus, the word ‘Vitor’ was written & ndashviva in Latin & ndash followed by the name of the lucky man.
Each of the signs, such as an improvised notice board, tried to immortalize Murcians who would have stood out for their dedication to the city. One of them, to cite an example, was the mayor Rojas, who went out of his way for the progress of the city.
So one day, according to Tornel, someone decided to write in the Contrast: “ROXASCgr.” And since then everyone who read it already knew that the magistrate Bernardo de Roxas, brother of the famous bishop, back in the middle of the 18th century, had deserved the applause of the city.
In the same way, the names of brave soldiers or exiles who emigrated poor to return rich were parading in red ink. Even some butler of those appointed by the Consistory to organize the corpus if he did the rest to do so.
This is how the famous ‘Diario de Murcia’ described it: «And if he brought dances from Valencia, and brought out tremendous giants, and burned fireworks, or made brave bulls and surprising illuminations, so that the people were happy and satisfied … To the wall of Contrast with his name ».
No less often did a preacher start off with a certain cry that made the stones cry and that, for days, was the talk of that tiny city. And his name, to the clergyman’s delight, was on the wall.
For unfair oppositions
But not only to praise biographies the stones of Contrast served. On some occasion the name of a Murcian was inscribed who, unfairly, had lost an opposition, whether civil or ecclesiastical, and whom popular sentiment considered the best candidate.
This custom faded in the 19th century. The demolition of the Contrast was delayed for another half century. Thus, it began on February 24, 1933, after long months of writing and controversy in the press. Murcia lost another piece of its ancient history.
Such an emblematic property was never rebuilt, just as some politician promised. But what did return to the city was the tradition of those ugly cheers, it must be said, egregious walls. It was recovered during the Franco dictatorship and a vitor still remains on one of the facades of the Cathedral.
Another sign on its main façade is barely legible and condemns anyone who urinates in the cathedral environment to excommunication. Although it is very likely that it will soon cease to be read and then it will go down in history as the curious skeleton of the Velez chapel that the Bishopric ordered to remove, our cathedral would not become famous in the world like others that, for treasuring any curious trifle , they are.