Les Borges del Camp is a village situated at the foot of the last spurs of the Sierra de la Mussa and the mountains of Prades. The area is drained by the Alforja torrent, usually dry.
There is a sliver of Middle Paleolithic flint from prehistoric times, a piece of an axe and a third century Roman tomb, with an inscription from the decline of the Roman Empire, where today the hermitage of Mare de Deu de la Riera is. This has made scholars suspect the existence of a Roman villa. Les Borges and its church are mentioned in a Bull of Anastasi IV of March 25, 1154. The name may refer to the dry stone huts or may also have Romance roots, with Arab influence, referring to a tower or a defence. Les Borges was one of the seven founders of the Community of Camp. Throughout the medieval period there was intermittent fighting with Alforja for their administrative independence. According to scholars, from 1612 until the late eighteenth century, the town suffered continuing economic problems. Despite the availability of hives, the cultivation of the mulberry silkworm, dried figs and the opening of a gold mine, the town felt the effects of the War of the Reapers of 1650-1651. In the eighteenth century, agriculture and generally all the land of the diocese of Tarragona, would experience a significant progress. In Les Borges were grown hazelnuts, pomegranates, quince and citrus.
The war also affected the village of Les Borges. In 1645 the people complained of the damage caused by the French soldiers to the people and municipal property. A century later, the town also sent volunteers to participate in the Great War. The village had to provide food to the French soldiers who came from Reus during the French war. In 1822, Les Borges was the frame to fight royalists rebels and liberals from Reus. The Carlists were important over many years. In 1873, the Carlists went there to collect taxes and in 1874 there was a fight between Carlist and government forces. During the Civil War, the town was bombed by fascist aircraft.
Built between 1773 and 1786, it is an important religious monument.
Inside the village there are the ancestral homes of Cal Vall, where the Carlist chief Maties Llaberia i Vall was from, and Cal Dasca, an eighteenth century building.
The chapel is located about 800m west from the town centre, after crossing the stream of Alforja. The road is tarmaced and suitable for car or pedestrian. There is parking at the chapel annex. It was built in 1903, although the latter reconstruction is from 1954. The design was made by Francesc Berenguer Mestres and the construction was made by Adell Francesc Ferré. To visit, you may ask the key to the hermits, who are right in the building behind the chapel.
The hermitage of Mare de Deu de la Riera is only fifty years old. Before the last reconstruction, in 1954, there is a long and extraordinary architectural biography. First, we have to do a little review of the location. Before it was built, there was an ancient Roman villa very close by. Later in the twelfth century, there was the parish of Sant Bertomeu of Quadra dels Tascals, mentioned in a document of 1154. In 1735, it merged with the parish of Santa Maria de Les Borges.
But why did the inhabitants of Les Borges want to build a new chapel if they had one already? On February 5, 1901, Magdalena Ferrer i Martorell, Mrs. Gener, from Les Borges, left in her will 40,000 pesetas for the reconstruction of the old building. The plans for the chapel were signed by Bayó i Jaume Font but they were first devised by a distinguished student and collaborator of Antoni Gaudí, someone called Francesc Berenguer Mestres d'Assisi (Reus, 1866-Barcelona, 1914). He could not sign the planning because he wasn't a qualified architect; in fact, he never achieved this status. At that time, the chapel was many centuries old and it possibly had linking elements from several styles from over the years.Their origin, however, was Romanesque. On June 1, 1903, the first stone of the new building was laid - a month earlier the centenary chapel had finally collapsed. The construction was not delayed, and was finished in just six months. The following July, the chapel was blessed. However, the final presence of the monument did not quite convince parishioners, among other things, because the bell tower was unfinished and the corresponding part of the furniture inside was missing. The village of Les Borges and devotees from nearby villages could not use it for too many years, as in 1939 it came down again from the explosion of the ammunition stored inside. The chapel became a powder keg, which was operated out of fear of the advancing Moroccan army and in an attempt to avoid letting the military equipment to the enemy. After this, the inhabitants of the municipalities of El Baix Camp had to wait sixteen years to enjoy the current template. Already in 1954, Adell Francesc Ferré drew up some new plans to build the chapel. The builder was Bertran Joan Ribas, collaborator of Adell. The chapel was paid for through popular subscription. The Mare de Deu de la Riera is a beloved image to the inhabitants of Les Borges. It is a wood carved icon, found in the thirteenth century; during the French war it was kept in the parish church. When the annual town celebration of Les Borges takes place, the image is transferred, on September 7, from the chapel to the parish church for a few days. The accompaniment of the Virgin is rather special because the arrival of the stature is announced by the fire of the Dance of Devils. The appearance of devils has taken place since 1916, but the procession, according to Professor Pere Anguera, dates from the eighteenth century and it is documented since 1850. The chapel has a Greek cross. The exterior of the building shows fully modernist work, such as the application of brick that covers all angles, toppings, and windows. It creates compositions around windows and doors. The seals of the walls are very original and hide the roof behind triangular spikes that are spread over the arms of the church and give it a distinctive compositional rhythm. The bell tower, next to the Epistle, suggests several details of the modernist wineries from Camp de Tarragona.
The Festa Major de la Mare de Deu de la Riera is considered a Traditional Festival of National Interest. The festival has its origins in the processions celebrated in the village of Les Borges since the image of the Mare de Deu de la Riera was found, at an unknown date. The festival started during the second third of the eighteenth century; until then, it was held on August 15, and later it was moved to September 8.
Traditionally the festival runs from 7th to 10th September, followed the next day by the Catalan national day. The Eve of the Arrival is the most exciting day for all the inhabitants of Les Borges.
Though there are earlier references to the Dance of the Devils, the Devils with their 'forks' have been a feature of the festival since the 1880s. This is one of the few places where - and the best regional example of - the Dance is still as it was in the Baix Camp.
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