History

The Royal Basque Society of the Friends of the Country and the Real Seminario Patriótico Bascongado of Bergara

INÉS PELLÓN GONZÁLEZ
Amiga de Número de la Real Sociedad Bascongada de los Amigos del País

The Seminary of Bergara in the eighteenth century

For those who see the Seminary of Bergara for the very first time, the first impression they are struck by is, what is indisputably, an outstanding building. This perception is borne out by its splendid walls, and if these old walls could speak, they would tell tales of having housed a leading educational institution and research centre, a pioneer in scientific and technical disciplines that were taught within the confines of the Seminary. The main driving force behind this great feat was Xavier María de Munibe e Idiáquez (1729-1785), the Eighth Count of Peñaflorida, who along with other Procurator Knights founded a Society in the likeness of the Academies of Sciences that existed in Europe at that time. Formally established on 24th December 1764, when it was placed under the protection of the king, it was called the Royal Basque Society of the Friends of the Country. It was the first organisation of its kind that had been founded and attracted great interest among his contemporaries.

When the Society's educational programme came to fruition, its teachings were delivered in a splendid building that belonged to the Jesuits, and which was donated to the Society when the Company of Jesus was expelled from Spain. The school was called the Real Seminario Patriótico Bascongado (Royal Basque Patriotic Seminary) from February 1777, and although it was called a "Seminary", religious studies were not taught here during this time, but the education required to continue other higher education courses was provided, including all studies designed to provide a comprehensive education to its student body.

In September 1777 the first two chairs introduced in the State were created in "Chemistry" and "Mineralogy and Metallurgy" because, although the "School of Mining" in Almadén was founded a few months prior to that (Royal Decree, 14th July 1777), they were not covered in the curriculum. The establishment of these chairs was associated with a mission of scientific and military espionage assisted by the members of the Society, and the culmination of which was the isolation of tungsten in Bergara in 1783 by Juan José (1754-1796) and Fausto (1755-1833) de Elhuyar (or Delhuyar). But we must not be blinded by the significance of this achievement, because there were many more scientific milestones achieved in this Bergara burg: the accomplishment of debasing platinum from ores, first by François Chabaneau (1754-1842), Professor of Physics, French Language and Chemistry, and then by Anders Nicolaus Thunborg (1747-1795), Professor of Mineralogy; the activation of innovative techniques to promote industry in the country, the various metallurgical works conducted by Fausto Elhuyar; water analysis carried out in different fountains and springs by the chemist Louis Proust (1754-1826) including many other research projects in the field of chemistry; the promotion of new practices in agriculture and livestock farming; the high level of mathematical studies taught by Gerónimo Más (¿?-1804); the launch of Nautical Studies granting various awards, and the undertaking of various types of medical research, notably the smallpox inoculation campaign. Furthermore, Louis Proust had the honour of having established a "perfect laboratory" in Bergara to teach his classes and undertake chemical analysis. On 20th May 1779, in the nearby "Casa Zabala", he witnessed the first chemistry lesson, regarded as an independent academic discipline, that was taught in the whole State.

Upon the death of King Carlos III in 1788, he was succeeded by Carlos IV (1748-1819), who reflected on the developments of the Revolution in the neighboring country and what was referred to as the "War on Convention." When French troops entered the province of Gipuzkoa, all staff at the Seminary dispersed, so from 1794 all activities undertaken there were ceased, although not forever. Until recently it was believed that the French troops had looted the school and had destroyed, among other things, the contents of the laboratory, but it has now been proven that such destruction never took place. All utensils from the chemistry laboratory located in "Casa Zabala" survived the war and were taken to the main building in 1800, where teaching resumed once again in January 1798.

The resumption of teaching in the nineteenth century and its continuation in the twentieth century

The turbulent nineteenth century saw the school being renamed as the "Real Seminario de Nobles" in 1804 and "Liceo Vascongado" under the government of Joseph Bonaparte, and it was once again renamed the "Real Seminario de Nobles" at the end of the War of Independence. Halfway through the Liberal Triennium (1820-23) the Seminary obtained the status of "Provincial University for Secondary Education", thereby becoming the first official secondary school in Gipuzkoa, being renamed the "Real Seminario de Nobles" in 1823. Despite the military occupation of the Seminary during the First Carlist War (1833-1839), teaching resumed in October 1840, thereby initiating another illustrious period that got underway when it was declared the "Instituto Superior Guipuzcoano de Segunda Enseñanza" in 1845, wherein courses were given in subjects that most of the State secondary schools could not deliver.

Those responsible for running the Seminary broadened the range of subjects taught in 1848 inaugurating a Special School of Mathematics and a Business School which officially validated the preparatory studies for the higher facultative studies. Two years later (1850) the Industrial School was founded, which was one of the first three that were founded (along with schools in Barcelona and Seville), and were the precursors to our modern Schools of Industrial Engineering. In 1851 the school was named the "Real Seminario Científico Industrial de Vergara" and comprised numerous areas including: Primary Education, Institute of Secondary Education, Special School of Mathematics, Business School, Industrial School and Multidisciplinary Studies. Modernity and the high level of knowledge taught in these schools meant, as was the case in the eighteenth century, that the Seminary accepted students from all corners of the Spanish Peninsula, from some European countries and overseas territories such as America and the Philippines. Unfortunately, the economic difficulties at the time led to the Industrial School being withdrawn in 1861, such that the Seminary only offered studies related to the Provincial Institute and the "Boarding School", maintaining, albeit without subsidies, the courses enabling access to facultative civilian and military careers of the State, as well as business studies. During the Second Carlist War (1873-1876) the occupation of the establishment by the troops of Carlos, the pretender to the throne, was the reason it was decided to transfer the Provincial Institute of Gipuzkoa to San Sebastian, a city where it still remains to the present day. Teaching at the Seminary was abandoned until the building was ceded to the Dominican Friars in 1880, on the condition that a teaching institution would be re-established. They revived it such that its fame brought Bergara back to life once again, shining bright on its own merit, as it was thought that the field of science was one of the keys to teaching. All departments underwent expansion, especially the natural sciences department and the zoological collection, as the Head was a student of Darwin's theories, despite being a member of a religious order. This invaluable legacy was on the verge of disappearing due to the negligence of a few at a particular time until, fortunately, in 1992 the local authorities decided to undertake the arduous task of researching, identifying, restoring and preserving all the material that was abandoned to their fate. These 3,012 unique, valuable, irreplaceable pieces, which are of immense importance for our future, include an example of a dilatometer from 1772 and a complete skeleton of a "Basque whale" (Eubalaena glacialis), as well as other priceless materials.

All the characters who played a role in the history of Royal Basque Society of the Friends of the Country and its Seminary worked incredibly hard and carried out their job extremely well. The results speak for themselves; their efforts achieved dazzling results, but they also serve as a model in other aspects of life: the value of work well done, effort is always rewarded, the importance of keeping your word and having a sense of honour, and the responsibility of honouring your commitments are some of the values that we can learn when we take a closer look at these leading figures. In this context, we find ourselves "standing on the shoulders of giants" as Bernard of Chartres said; we are perched on perfect footholds from where we are able to see more and farther than the latter, and from which we can prepare a better future. The brilliance of this past is what should illuminate our future and we are obliged to pass this knowledge on to our contemporaries, and especially to our descendants. We have an obligation to ensure that this never fades into obscurity.

 

Bibliography:

CABALLER, M.C. / LLOMBART, J. / PELLÓN, I. (2001) La Escuela Industrial de Bergara (1851-1861). Donostia-San Sebastián, Colegio Oficial de Ingenieros Industriales de Gipuzkoa.
FELIPE Y LORENZO, E. de (1993) "Los cien nombres del Seminario de Bergara (1776-1783). Lección de ingreso en la RSBAP" Nuevos Extractos de la Real Sociedad Bascongada de los Amigos del País. Suplemento nº 6-G del Boletín de la RSBAP. Donostia-San Sebastián, RSBAP.
GAGO, R. / PELLÓN, I. (1994) Historia de las cátedras de Química y Mineralogía de Bergara a finales del siglo XVIII. Bergara, Ayuntamiento de Bergara.
GUÍA (2010) Guía del Real Seminario de Bergara. Único, valioso, mirando al futuro. Guía del Real Seminario de Bergara. Bergara, Ayuntamiento de Bergara.
IBÁÑEZ RODRÍGUEZ, S. (ed.) (2002) La proyección mundial de los hermanos Delhuyar en el campo de la ciencia y la economía. Logroño, Universidad de La Rioja.
LARRAÑAGA, K. (1991) Las Manifestaciones del hecho ilustrado en Bergara. Bergara, Bergarako Udala, L.G. 1991.
LLOMBART, J. (2002) "Presencias científico-técnicas extranjeras en los Extractos (1771-1793) de la Real Sociedad Bascongada de Amigos del País". En: A. Despy-Meyer (Ed.) Institutions and Societies for Teaching, Research and Popularisation. De Diversis Artibus Collection de Travaux de l'Academie Internationale d'Histoire des Sciences/Collection of Studies from the International Academy of the History of Science Tome 62 (N. S. 25), Proceedings of the XXth International Congress of History of Science, Volume XIX. Turnhout (Belgium), Brepols Publishers, 307-316.
PELLÓN, I. (2013) "De wolframio a tungsteno. Reflexiones en el 230 aniversario de su aislamiento por Juan José y Fausto Delhuyar", Tierra y Tecnología, nº 43, http://www.icog.es/TyT/index.php/2013/08/de-wolframio-a-tungsteno/, visitada el 09.11.2013.
RECARTE BARRIOLA, M. T. (1990) Ilustración vasca y renovación educativa: La Real Sociedad Bascongada de los Amigos del País. Publicaciones Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca. RSBAP. Salamanca.
ROMÁN POLO, P. (2000) Los hermanos Delhuyar, la Bascongada y el wolframio. Bilbao, RSBAP, Comisión de Bizkaia.
SERRANO MARTÍN, J. (2009) José María de Odriozola y Oñativia 1782-1864. De las Bellas artes, a las ciencias matemáticas y físicas. Real Sociedad Bascongada de los Amigos del País.
SILVÁN LÓPEZ-ALMOGUERA, L. (1985) "La Real Sociedad Bascongada de Amigos del País y el Real Seminario Patriótico Bascongado de Bergara". En: Historia del País Vasco, siglo XVIII. Bilbao, Universidad de Deusto, 175-190.
TELLECHEA IDÍGORAS, J. I. (1987) La Ilustración vasca. Cartas de Xavier María de Munibe, Conde de Peñaflorida, a Pedro Jacinto de Álava. Edición, introducción, notas e índices por J. I. Tellechea Idígoras. Vitoria, Parlamento Vasco.
TORALES PACHECO, J. M. C. (2001) Ilustrados en la Nueva España. Los socios de la Real Sociedad Bascongada de los Amigos del País. Universidad Iberoamericana, Departamento de Historia. RSBAP. Colegio de San Ignacio de Loyola Vizcaínas, I.A.P. México, D. F.

logo-ikurra2

DIRECTION OF THE ROYAL BASQUE SOCIEY OF THE FRIENDS OF THE COUNTRY

Palacio Intsausti
Aptdo. 105 – 20720 AZKOITIA
Tel. 943 285 577
E-mail: intsausti.rsbap@gmail.com

We use cookies to improve our website and your experience when using it. Cookies used for the essential operation of the site have already been set. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our Privacy Policy.

I accept cookies from this site