The Mystery of Obanos

History

History of the Mystery of Obanos

Obanos, a crossroads, is the cradle of one of the most beautiful legends of the Way of St. James. The oral transmission of this legend from generation to generation gave rise, in the 1960s, to the enactment of the historical event that came to be called the Mystery of Obanos or the Mystery of St. Guillén and Santa Felicia.

Its main proponent, the priest of Obanos, Don Santos Beguiristáin, wrote the initial text under the title “Of the martyrdom of Santa Felicia and the penance of St. Guillén”. This text was read on Wednesday 25 April 1962, the eve of the festival of San Guillermo, by the children of Obanos in the town square, at ten o’clock at night “around the bonfire of the saint”. According to local news sources, many residents attended the event and had been advised beforehand via public announcement to come “after dinner, without haste”,

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The success of this first popular enactment led to the establishment of a text, in 1965, in alexandrine verses, which recovered the medieval legend and incorporated traditions and characters from the Way of St. James.

The enactment was first staged on 25 August 1965 and its performances continued uninterrupted until 1977, adding up to more than a hundred performances attended by 130,000 people.

During those years, the enactment of the Mystery was sponsored by the Provincial Council of Navarre and the Ministry of Information and Tourism as a part of the “Festivals of Spain”. The Mystery of Obanos won the extraordinary National Prize of the “Mystery Play of Elche”.

After a hiatus of several years, in 1993, the recently created Mystery of Obanos Foundation, together with the Brotherhood of Hermits of Arnotegui, organised an enactment of the mystery as a part of the Festivals of Navarre. That enactment took place once more in 1999. In virtue of the efforts, the collaborative spirit and the labour put in by all the residents of Obanos – the true protagonists of this cultural event – the enactment had, thus, been consolidated. Since then, the enactment continued to be organised in the years 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008.

In 2001 the Mystery of Obanos was declared as a festivity of National Tourist Interest.

The awards received by the “Mystery of Obanos” throughout the years have earned it national and international recognition. Moreover, many actors and directors who participated in these events truly left their mark on this enactment staged by the residents of Obanos.

Santos Beguiristáin

Its main proponent, the priest of Obanos, Don Santos Beguiristáin, wrote the initial text under the title “Of the martyrdom of Santa Felicia and the penance of St. Guillén”. This text was read on Wednesday 25 April 1962, the eve of the feast of San Guillermo, by the children of Obanos in the town square, at ten o’clock at night “around the bonfire of the saint”. According to local news sources, many residents attended the event and had been advised beforehand via public announcement to come “after dinner, without haste”,

The success of this first popular enactment led to the establishment of a text, in 1965, in alexandrine verses, which recovered the medieval legend and incorporated traditions and characters from the Way of St. James.

Father Santos Beguiristáin can be attributed the honour of having been the heart, soul and life of this scenic altarpiece, the “Mystery of Obanos”. Set in medieval times, the background motif of this enactment portrays all of the essential content related to what the Way of St. James meant for the men and women of the Middle Ages. Born in Argentina in 1908, Santos Beguiristáin returned with his parents to Obanos at the age of four to continue his studies in Lecároz. He would later enrol in the Conciliar Seminary of Pamplona in 1924. At 18, with the support of a scholarship from the dioceses, he moved to Rome to complete his studies in Theology and Law, obtaining a PhD in both subjects at the Gregorian University.

The leyend

The Leyend of the Mystery

The text “Of the martyrdom of Santa Felicia and the penance of St. Guillén”, popularly known as the “Mystery of Obanos”, provides a literary manifestation of a secular legend from the fourteenth century concerning the children of the Dukes of Aquitaine.

After traveling the Way of St. James and feeling a religious calling, Princess Felicia, overcome by the pilgrims’ fervour and heaven’s miracles, decided to spend her life in silence, fleeing her royal territory, her ancestors and her riches, to devote herself to the humble service of our Lord.

She took up residence in the town of Amocain, in the Valley of Egües, where she concealed her status, hiding her rank and living in tranquillity and piety. Until she was discovered by her brother Guillermo, the brave and belligerent, who set out to rescue her from her illusions back to the glory of the royal house. But his efforts were all in vain. He reminded her of her lineage’s honour, of the dreams that her parents had for her life, of her arranged marriage.

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But she clung to Heaven’s call and to the demands of a supernatural vocation. A true battle ensued between human love and divine love. Guillermo, drunk with vanity, lost all control in fits of rage. Felicia reiterated her intentions of abandoning her life and remaining engrossed in silence and humility. Swept up in emotion, Guillermo killed Felicia, who would later be consecrated as an innocent victim.

Heaven made Felicia’s tomb flourish in wonders, transforming it into a place of worship in Labiano, where it arrived through the works of miracle.

The tomb of Santa Felicia was established in Labiano (Valley of Aranguren), while her brother Guillén was also sanctified after performing a pilgrimage to Compostela and mourning his crime for the rest of his life in the hermitage of Arnotegui. There, where he comforted the pilgrims of the Way of St. James and provided assistance to the poor, his remains are still worshipped to this day.

WARDROBE OF THE MYSTERY

The wardrobe

The lush wardrobe of the Mystery of Obanos enactment is made up of 1,056 costumes, each with its corresponding accessories. All are replicas of medieval attire and were designed between 1965 and 1977.

In addition to these costumes there are about twenty carriages, horse drawn implements, banners, swords, shields, armour, etc. All of which is located in the current headquarters of the Mystery of Obanos Foundation. The Brotherhood of Hermits of Arnotegui is in charge of the conservation of these items.

At first, the costumes were designed by Francis Bartolozzi and tailored by the sisters Mari and Carmen Lozano. The set was then completed by the Cunas Institution, of Father Carmelo, a Dominican from Pamplona. Soon dressmakers from the town started collaborating, such as Clara Vélaz, while most of the hats were the work of Obano’s Maria Luisa Ulzurrun.

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In 1997, Maria Luz Vidart, also from Obanos, undertook a review of the costumes. By 1999 and 2000, a small group of people had come together to perform important conservation work. Mariano Velez, a saddler from Puente la Reina, took care of all leather garments, horse harnesses, etc. In 1998, Feliciano Vélez led the initiative of inventorying all of these items.

The artistic value of this collection of medieval costumes is no less than its monetary value and can, indeed, be considered inestimable.

RECOGNITION AND AWARDS

Extraordinary Award “Mystery Play of Elche”

It was awarded in 1965 by the Ministry of Information and Tourism, which made it possible to include the enactment of the Mystery of Obanos in the cultural program “Festivals of Spain”.

“Festivity of National Tourist Interest”

In August 2001, the Ministry of Economy, through the Directorate-General of Tourism, granted the Mystery of Obanos Foundation the title of Festivity of National Tourist Interest, thus responding to the request issued by the Government of Navarre at the initiative of the Foundation itself, with the express support of the Obanos City Council.

The declaration of a Festivity of National Tourist Interest is granted to festivals or events that represent a manifestation of cultural values ​​and popular tradition, with special consideration for their ethnological characteristics. Special importance is also attributed to the propensity of such events to drive tourism.

The criteria especially considered when granting this title include the amount of time that the festivity or event in question has been celebrated, the continuity of its celebration over the years, and the originality and diversity of the acts carried out.

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At the initiative of the Mystery of Obanos Foundation, the General-Directorate of Commerce and Tourism of the Government of Navarre submitted the request in April 2001, including a report from the City Council on the most relevant aspects of the enactment of the Mystery of Obanos. The Ministry’s response came in August of the same year via a letter from the Secretary General for Tourism, Juan José Güemes Barrios, communicating the decision to grant the requested honorary title to the soliciting party.

With this declaration, the enactment of the Mystery of Obanos would be included among the actions led by the State Secretary for Commerce and Tourism to promote the Festivities of National Tourist Interest.

This recognition, in 2001, constituted the most relevant event for the Mystery of Obanos Foundation, and certainly that with the greatest promise for its future.

Practically speaking, it meant that the enactment of the Mystery of Obanos would be included among the actions led by the State Secretary for Commerce and Tourism to promote the Festivities of National Tourist Interest.

The Mystery of Obanos Foundation was immediately aware of the importance of this step. Therefore, it spared no efforts in formalising what until then had amounted to little more than popular recognition. The Mystery of San Guillén and Santa Felicia had come to be considered as one of the most prestigious cultural manifestations with high touristic value, along with others of similar descriptions such as the Mystery Play of Elche.

The Mystery of Obanos 2022

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Artistic project

the Mystery of Obanos

Contact

Fundación Misterio de Obanos
C/ Nuestra Señora de Arnotegui, 19
31151 Obanos
Navarra (España)
+34 948 344 544
+34 948 344 541
info@misteriodeobanos.org

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