A common history at both sides of the Pyrenees which we can revive on foot
The Trek Refugis del Torb offers the participants a tour which has been the scene of episodes of the Catalan past, which is good to remember.
To start with these three counties, Ripollès, Vallespir and Conflent, and all the way of the route, now belonging to different states, shared lords and earls for centuries in our Middle Ages. Before Catalonia became a nation, the earls of Cerdanya, under the control of whom were, among other areas, the Vall de Ribes, are also masters of Conflent. Since the ninth century, they enjoy the help of the viscounts of Conflent as military partners. A member of this family of viscounts is the Bishop of Urgell, St. Ermengol (1010-1035), who, apart from his episcopal office, which affected the Vall de Ribes, had in this area, several private properties in Ventolà and Ribes.
Vall de Ribes and Conflent present, though, an even closer and more continuous relationship through an unknown, but essential to the understanding of the economy and the lifestyle in the mountains: livestock. In the fifteenth century, a period of great progress of livestock, when the butchers of Barcelona were interested in the supply of good products for the city markets, and bought meat from Conflent and Vall the Ribes, a strategic alliance was established between large pastures and shepherds of Coma de Vaca (Queralbs) and the pastures of Vinçà (Conflent). It was agreed that those flocks grazing at Vinçà would have free access to the pastures of Queralbs. Therefore, the contact between herders and livestock in these regions took often place in the landscape the participants will contemplate during the journey. Worth among many other examples, the proposed trek was used by the shepherds and animals from Prats de Mollo, who had the right to graze at Planoles until at least 1639. Do not forget as well the survival of ancient traditions until today, such as the “tria de mulats” (selection of foals) of Espinavell, so famous and celebrated by people of Molló and Pi.
Moreover, the human and economic relationship was not so interrupted as it could be expected by the Treaty of the Pyrenees (November, 7th 1659) which led to the annexation to the French crown of the whole old county of Roussillon and part of that of Cerdanya, whereas the Vall de Ribes and the Vall de Camprodon remained under Spanish jurisdiction. There are many examples at all levels showing that the border did not stop the human relationship, nor did it cause the loss of transhumance routes, nor those of pilgrims from Pi, for example, direction Núria. Because beyond the political and administrative borders there is and there was, in addition to the human and economic relationship, a very strong link, which comes from the mountain itself, and the flame and the mythical force created by the legends and religious beliefs associated with two emblematic peaks, the Canigó and the Puigmal.
Abbot Oliba, of whom in 2008 we celebrated the millennium, was the builder of this country of mountains, through the ambitious projects of Cuixà and Ripoll monasteries, but also on a smaller scale, by creating small rural parishes like St. Marcel de Planés in Planoles, which Oliba consecrated himself, giving a similar architechtural appearance to the country, Romanesque, well of values that we shared and now update. One foundation, that of St Miquel de Cuixà, near the Canigó, the other, that of St Marcel, near the Puigmal.
The vitality of the Pyrenean legends, investigated by the priest Jacint Verdaguer, recovered an extraordinary poetic material that crystallized in his poem Canigó (1886), where many of the myths of Puigmal and Canigó appear: Abbot Oliba, the earls of Cerdanya, Núria, etc ... Verdaguer and his poetry brought the pride of belonging to the Pyrenean community and the upholding and updating of values that can be seen, not only as a legacy from the past, but also as a universal proposal for the present and future: the Pyrenees as a benchmark of peace, love for nature, solidarity and sensitivity, and now, today, as a connecting space between people that enjoy leisure and sports.
Today, we update these values on the paths, through which, in the past, went shepherds, flocks, soldiers and pilgrims to Núria, Coma de Vaca, Ulldeter and Rojà.
Miquel Sitjar i Serra
Philologist and tourist guide.