The tradition of midnight mass on Christmas Eve is a special meaningful date in every church in Majorca. It is the moment to listen to the apocalyptic melodies of The Song of the Sibyl. This tradition deeps its root on the Greek and Roman colonies radiated in the Balearic Islands. This pagan practice emulated the antic ritual of consulting the sibyl or prophetess about the future. It has been practice nearly uninterruptedly since medieval times, until was forbidden by the Vatican authorities by the Council of Trent in 1572. Since that moment, the Song of the Sibyl has become an identity and freedom symbol for the Majorca’s people. It was declared a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2010, becoming a tourist attraction.
Every parish have their own the Song of the Sibyl show, but the most spectacular are the ones perform in the Monastery of Lluc and the Palma Cathedral. I specially recommended you to go to the one in the Sanctuary of Lluc where the Sibyl sings according the strictest tradition in complete silence and covered by the cloak of semidarkness. If you are hosted in Luabay Marivent the closest one is the Cathedral the biggest performance in the island.
The Song of the Sibyl are medieval music pieces that announce the end of the world and the Apocalypse. The performance used to be started in by six children conforming a chorus, but now all the song are singed by a women or a young girl. This woman dress with medieval cloth, usually kept as part of the church’s treasure. Also, she carries a sword during the performance impersonating the Last Trial’s angel. The music usually performed by the organ is Greek Latin style and the lyrics are in Catalan, a poetic version of Joel’s gospel. Oral transmission and the lack of written scripts has caused that the various old lyrics in Catalan suffered many modifications creating the existing diverse versions play around Majorca today.
If you are planning to visit Majorca and to experiment the unique The Song of the Sibyl, do not miss the mundane tradition of “xocolatada” after mass. The parishioners get together to enjoy hot cocoa and biscuits while discussing the impressive performance of this year Sibyl.
Foto Donal Murray in Unesco.org