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Diocese of Minorca

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Suffragan of Valencia, comprises the Island of Minorca, the second in size of the Balearic Islands, which are possessions of Spain. The civil capital is Port Mahon; the ecclesiastical, Ciudadela. The origin of the Diocese of Minorca is not known, but it certainly existed in the fifth century, as its bishop Macarius, together with Elias and Opilio, Bishops of Majorca, rector of Felanitx, published in 1787 a Latin treatise commenting upon it and defending its authenticity. But the account of the expedition undertaken, under the direction of a certain Theodore, to convert the Jews who were in possession of Minorca, and the events therein related, are of a legendary character.

The Vandals took possession of Minorca, as well as of Corsica, Sardinia, and Sicily, and during their dominion the Diocese of Minorca was under the jurisdiction of the metropolitan See of Sardinia. The Bull of Pope Romanus, dated 897, in which among other territories assigned to the Bishop of Gerona we find the islands of Majorca and Minorca, shows that the invasion of Spain by the Mohammedans brought the existence of the Diocese of Minorca to an end. It was not re-established until the eighth century. When Minorca was recovered, in 1783, from the English, who obtained possession of it in the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-14), the re-establishment of the diocese was considered. Pius VI by the Bull of 23 July, 1795, erected the new Diocese of Minorca. Its first bishop, Antonio Vila, a native of Minorca, too possession of the see on 2 September, 1798. He was a man of learning, and the author of "El noble bien educado" (Madrid, 1776), "Viday Virtudes del invicto mártir . . . S. Juan Nepomuceno" (Madrid, 1777), and "El Vasallo instruido" (Madrid, 1792). The last-named won for its author his canonry in the cathedral of Minorca. He also worked on an encyclopedic dictionary of which twenty volumes in folio are still preserved in the cathedral of Albarracín. On 25 July, 1802, Bishop Vila was transferred to the Diocese of Albarracín, where he died 30 October, 1809. D. Pedro Antonio Juano was appointed to succeed him in 1814, and was followed by the famous D. Jaime Creus y Martí, canon of Urgel, president of the Junta Suprema of Catalonia during the War of Independence, deputy in the Cortes of Cadiz, and a member of the Royal Council. Having been raised to the dignity of Archbishop of Tarragona, he was succeeded by D. Antonio de Ceruelo and the Dominican Fray Antonio Diaz Merino, who, since 1825, had been an active collaborator in the "Biblioteca de Religiòn". In 1837 Fray Antonia was exiled first to Cadiz and then to France, and died at Marseilles in 1844. His successor, D. Mateo Jaume was present at the Vatican Council . Since then the see has been filled in succession by D. Manuel Mercador, (1875)-90), D. Juan Comes y Vidal, founder of the Academia de la Juventud Catòlica (26 July, 1906), D. Salvador Castellote y Pinazo (1901-6), and D. Juan Torres y Ribas, the present bishop.

The capital, Port Mahon, which has a population of 18,445, is on the east coast and had the best port in the Mediterranean. The saying, "Junio, Julio, Agosto y Puerto Mahòn, Los mejores puertos del Mediterraneo son" (June, July, August, and Port Mahon are the best harbors in the Mediterranean), is attributed to the famous Andrea Doria. At the entrance stand the fortresses of San Felipe, built by Philip II, la Mola, and Isabel II. The Isla del Rey (Island of the King), so called from the fact that Aldonso III landed there when he visited Minorca in 1287, is in the centre. In the thirteenth century the famous military hospital was built on this island. Port Mahon has a school for secondary instruction and a custom-house of the first order.

Among the public buildings the most noteworthy are the court-house and the parish church built by order of Alfonso III. The latter has a magnificent organ. A handsome façade ornaments the entrance to the cemetery. Ciudadela, the episcopal city, is believed to be the Jamnona of the Carthaginians, founded by their captain Jamna, or Jama. Many traces of an earlier Celtic civilization are to be found here, among which may be mentioned the talayots (Cyclopean constructions of huge blocks of stone in the shape of a tower with a high entrance), obelisks, dolmens, covered galleries, and corneillons , or Celtic cemeteries. Many Roman inscriptions, vases, and coins are also to be found. The city is fairly well laid out and well kept, and has a population of 8,000. It has a fortress and other defensive works. On the Paseo del Borne there is an obelisk about 72 feet in height, erected to the memory of the heroes of 9 July, 1558, when they Turks attacked Ciudadela. The defenders of the city on this occasion were commanded by Negrete y Arquimbau, and the monument was erected on the initiative of the Franciscan, José Niu, who died caring for the victims of the cholera epidemic of 1865.

The cathedral of Minorca had, from the time of its foundation in 1287, all the magnificence requisite for the only parish church of Ciudadela, then the capital of the island. A memorial tablet of the year 1362 says that Juan Corca held a benefice in this church. Constructed in the Gothic style of architecture, with a single nave, it presents an imposing appearance. The belfry is square, finished with an octagonal spire. In the beginning of the last century the main entrance was enriched with a mass of Græco-Roman architecture, but the original Gothic portal is still preserved behind this. When the Turks attacked the city they fired the church. Bishop Comes y Vidal restored it, adding numerous small windows, and restoring the main altar. Other church buildings of note are the chapel of the convent of the Poor Clares (ogival style) and the church of San Agustín, very spacious and elegant. The latter has two towers on each side of the portico, colossal frescoes, now in a bad state of preservation, and rich gildings; it is used at present for the chapel of the diocesan seminary which was installed by Bishop Jaume in the ancient convent del Socorro. This seminary (San Ildefonso) was founded by the learned Franciscan Niu, in 1858. Lastly, there may be mentioned the church of San Francisco, in the Gothic style.

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