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The hermitage of Santa Maria del Villar is a Romanesque hermitage located in the municipality of Bigues i Riells in the area of ​​the old parish church of Sant Mateu de Montbui. It is located in the Levante part of the Masía del Villar. This church was one of the medieval parishes of the Barony of Montbui, and later it became dependent on Santa Maria de Caldes de Montbui. It is currently included in the bishopric of Vic since 1946 and belongs to the parish of Sant Feliu de Codines, much closer than Sant Vicenç de Riells.
The hermitage has many Romanesque elements. It is a temple of a single rectangular nave, of reduced dimensions, with a semicircular apse to Levante, as established by the Romanesque canons, with a double-sided window, made of regular stone and crowned with a semicircular arch. The deck of the nave is Baroque. On the frontispiece or main façade, facing west, is the door without notable elements, with an inscription on top of the reform carried out in 1799 by Ramon de Montagut i de Villar. There is also an oculus and a one-eyed bulrush. The roof is double-sided and made of arabic tile like the apse.
In this small church, the Mare de Déu del Villar, its patron saint, is worshiped. Once a year, on Easter Monday the “Aplec del Villar” is celebrated and some “Goigs in Llaor de la Mare de Déu” are sung. This activity is one of the municipality’s cultural festivals.
The Virgin of Villar
The oldest original image, from the 14th century? – was a Romanesque carving that disappeared during the civil war. It was a small image, about 30 centimeters seated with the Child Jesus on her left knee and leaning on the Virgin’s arm. A photograph of the year 1925 of the original size is preserved. Currently there is a stone copy.
There is another image that surely is from the 18th century, surely baroque. It is terracotta. Regarding the old image, the iconography has varied. The Mare de Déu is crowned, wears a cap under the crown and a round neck, polychrome (white, red and green) tunic. The Virgin’s face is lost in space i without the smile of the original image. She is sitting breastfeeding the Child Jesus. That is why it is known by the name of Mare de Déu de la Llet.
Towards the fifties, in the nursing home of Sant Feliu, then a hospital, there was an àrtos room presided over by a photograph from the Mare de Déu del Villar.

Goigs de la Mare de Déu de Villar

At the moment we have two different Goig models: one from 1894 and the other awarded at the Jocs Florals de Sant Feliu in 1947 and published by “Els Amics dels Goigs” in 1960. Those that are sung on the same day l’Aplec are those of the year 1894, but with the variation of an added stanza: “Costum digne de lloança/és, quan passa el perill/és la seva deslliurança,/la mare dongui al seu fill/el pit, en Vós confiada/de genolls prop vostre altar”.

The “Aplec de Villar” and other curiosities
On Easter Monday the custom of holding an Aplec in the hermitage and at the Masía del Villar is maintained. Currently it has a very simple structure: Mass, singing of the Goigs and dancing of sardanas in the old Villar era.
Not always the party was raised the same. It seems that in the past only “Goigs” were sung. For example, the Mass was introduced after the Second Vatican Council. Sardanas have not been known since when they are danced on this day.
Attendance at the festival varies from year to year, with rain being a determining factor. In the sixties the sale of roasted hazelnuts was established as a custom now disappeared.
We cannot date the origin of l’Aplec at this time. The oldest news dated from 1899 in La Veu del Vallès, April 2, 1899. Any IV, n.124, p.8:

In ancient catalan:
” Demà dilluns es lo dia que, com teniam anunciat, celebrarà la nostra Agrupació Catalanista, la seva inaugural. Poch després de l’arrivada dels cotxes, ó sia à las 10 del matí, comensarà lo meeting. Se farà en la sala d’ espectacles del Cassino Felicense, haventse designat aquest local per ser lo de mes cabuda de la població: unas 800 personas.No podem citar los noms dels qui pendràn la paraula perquè encara no s’ ha decidit. Lo local estarà adornat ab atributs patriotichs y durant la entrada y sortida, se repartiràn alguns milers de fullas de propaganda, que ha facilitat la Unió Catalanista. A la tarde, tothom anirà à Villa, ahont s’ hi farà lo tradicional aplech. Un coro de Centellas compost de 80 individuos y los coros de Sant Feliu, hi portaran molta animació. A sota d’ aquells centenaris alzinars,al vol de la regalada font, hi haurà bullici en gran. Mentres los uns brenaràn, altras aniran à visitar la Mare de Deu de la capella, pera cantarhi Ios Goigs. Resulta aquesta festa atractívola en extrem.

La casa de Villa es antiguissima y malgrat lo perill de caure en alguna inexactitut, ne volem donar cuatre notas históricas. Escribím los següents datos quasi tots de memòria. Los Villá, que suposem son los Vilar, procedian de Vallgorguina. Al darrer terç del segle VIII, ja dona aquesta familia un fill ilustre à la Pàtria, en Joan Vilar, qui es distingeix en guerra contra ‘Is moros contribuhint a sa expulsió de Tona y de Moncada, ab l’Andreu Maspons, en Joan Sallés y altres vallesans. Fundan l’ actual casa de Sant Feliu per allà a!sii;le IX. trobanthi al cap d’ anys à en Pons de Vilar, senyor de Montbuy y mes tard bisbe de Barcelona. Dit Pons, consagra la iglesia de Sant Feliu al any 1193. Mes endavant, trobem en la mateixa familia  à en Pere de Vilar, fundador de la benèfica institució Almoyna de Barcelona. Tenim poch espay per a parlar d’ aquest personatje y de sas obras; preferim per lo tant guardar la paraula per altra ocasió, à un distingit colaborador de LA VEU, que s’ ocuparà extensament del nostre noble cavaller. Lo dia de demà ha sigut esperat per tothom ab dalit; confiem en que serà un dia memorable pel catalanisme. Nos es impossible anunciar lo número de forrasters que vindràn. Però, per las cartas que  van arrivant, sabem que vindran catalanistas, de l’Ampurdà y de la Costa, del Camp de Tarragona, del Panadés y d’ altres punts, especialment de Barcelona.

D’ aquesta comarca no cal dir si ‘n vindran. Y esperem també molt especialment vèurens afavorits per la Junta Permanent de là Unió Catalanista, directora y representant dél catalanisme, entre quins individuos tenim l’ honor de poguerhi comptar al nostre Director de LA VEU DEL VALLÉS. Dias ha que las Juntas de la Unió y de la ‘Agrupaciò estant en continuas relacions per la organisació de la festa, de manera que hem de suposar que revestirà la mateixa serietat que la de Vilassar y altràs.”

Speaking of “Aplecs”. There is a version of the anthropologist Dolores Juliano, a retired professor at the University of Barcelona about pilgrimages or “aplecs” that were held in Sant Feliu de Codines. She made a study, “Structural analysis of a system of romiatges al Vallès”, in which Sant Feliu was an important subject. It is based on the fact that there are two pilgrimage axes in Sant Feliu: The first, from Sant Sadurní (Northwest) to El Villar (Southeast); the second, from Sant Sebastià de Montmajor (Southwest) to Sant Miquel del Fai (Northeast). Sant Feliu would be in the center of the two lines or axes. Among other conclusions that we will not now relate, there is one that has caught our attention: “Furthermore, those Santfeliuencs who are going to beget a fill baró have to consummate the sexual act with the head aimed at the Sant Sadurní town council, and the peus , ter tant, orientats cap al Villar ”[1]

If you want to expand this study you can consult: FABREGAS i SURROCA, Xavier: “The ritual fons of quotidian life”. Barcelona. Edicions 62. 1987. 256 pp.

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