The tallest bell tower and the struggle with Reus
It is one of the jewels of Valls. Visible from practically any point around the city, the bell tower has become an architectural and characteristic symbol of the capital of the Alt Camp. Its 74 meters high make it the tallest in Catalonia. It was no accident. At the end of the 19th century there was a lot of rivalry with Reus and the Vallencs wanted their bell tower to be higher than that of the Prioral in the capital of Baix Camp, which is 62 meters high. For this, more was built than the architect had planned, recalls Jordi Paris, who has just written a book on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of this Vallense monument. The final touches are currently being made. It will be published by the Instituto de Estudios Vallencs (IEV) and it is expected to be presented between the end of November and the beginning of December.
Precisely, the IEV is mounting an exhibition to commemorate the 125 years of the bell tower. It will be inaugurated on Friday, October 21, at seven in the afternoon, and can be seen in the Sala Sant Roc until November 6: from Tuesday to Saturday from seven in the afternoon to eight-thirty in the afternoon, and Saturday and Sunday from twelve noon to two in the afternoon.
It finally got ahead thanks to the money of a family that had no descendants
The book begins with attempts to build a bell tower in the church of Sant Joan. But it was not achieved in the first, nor in the second. Centuries had to pass from the construction of the religious temple until it could have a bell tower like the one that currently exists. Paris remembers that the bell tower was already planned in the 16th century, when the nave of the church was built. But it did not materialize “because of a series of discussions about where to place it. And they didn't agree."
The construction of the church was finished and, as the economic effort had been so important, there was no money left for the bell tower. "Only a small construction was made to house the bells."
A second attempt was made in the 17th century. The City Council once again considered going ahead with the construction. But it didn't go well either. The most serious attempt took place in the 18th century and the first stone was laid. A tax was placed on meat to finance the construction “but there was a sleight of hand by the cashier and the work was paralyzed. Although it was started, only the foundations were laid. During the 19th century several attempts were made, but not as serious.
At the end of the 19th century, an individual decides to finance the work. This is Albert Dasca Olivé, a businessman in the textile sector, whose company had as a partner the family of the Martí Bonifàs couple, who had a son and a daughter. She this, in 1861, she entered a convent but a few months later she died at the age of 22, without being able to be a nun. Her brother died at 27. He left saying that since she came from a very religious family and since she had no more descendants, the money she had in the company should be invested in charities. He appointed executors to enforce the will of the deceased.
The exhibition will open on October 21 and can be seen until November 6 in Sant Roc
Part of the money went to the Casa de la Caridad (where the Colegio Lledó is now located and which closed in the early 1990s) and also to the Carme convent, which was converted into a school. But the most important part, 124,000 pesetas, was allocated to the construction of the bell tower, along with some small amounts from individuals.
For the Candlelight Festival of 1895, on February 2, the first stone of the bell tower was laid again. From then on, the works went at a good pace and by Santa Úrsula in 1897 it was inaugurated.
The diocesan architect of Barcelona Francisco de Paula Villar Carmona took care of the project. He was also in charge of the monument to the heroes of the battle of Bruc (now disappeared), the parish church of Tiana (Maresme), the Patxot observatory in Sant Feliu de Guíxols and the health center of the Albà Foundation in Barcelona.
The construction of the bell tower, during which a worker died in a fall, was carried out by the Vallense company run by Joan Oller Sans. «The historical value of the monument is beyond doubt», says Paris: «The city of Valls, if the bell tower disappeared, we would not recognize it, because the bell tower is what identifies it».
Jordi Paris recalls that initially the bell tower, according to Francisco de Paula Villar's project, had to be lower. "It was raised another eight meters than expected to surpass the one in Reus." And it is that at the end of the 19th century there was a lot of rivalry between both cities. "Those from Reus fucked up the bell tower saying it was a 'syringe' and those from Valls commented that it was to 'syringe' the people of Reus," he says.