* The authors are part of the community of La Vanguardia readers

Jafre is an old village, currently abandoned, in the Garraf Natural Park, in the municipality of Olivella, a few kilometers from Sitges and Barcelona. It is at the top of a hill 189 meters high where the remains of the house of the baron de Jafre, that of the masoveros and the church of Santa María de Jafre with the rectory (the parish priest is already mentioned in 1305) are preserved.

It is a work that is part of the Inventory of the Architectural Heritage of Catalonia. Currently, except for the church, it is in quite poor condition, all the buildings are in a state of ruin.

At the top, the remains of a building are preserved, of which only some low walls remain. It would be what is known as the Casa del Baró and, in the planimetry, as the El Castell.

In any case, the walls seen today at this point do not seem to correspond to the ruins of a medieval fortification, which was surely located right at the top of the elevation.

At mid-height we find the church complex, the rectory and the cemetery. Santa Maria de Jafre is a church with a single rectangular nave, without a distinct apse, oriented east-west and 18 meters long and 8 meters wide. The main façade, facing west, has a single entrance, formed by a door with a flat lintel made of limestone ashlars. Above, centered, is a circular light made of bricks.

The crowning of the façade is trapezoidal, topped by a line of white and blue glazed ceramic. Above we find a belfry with two eyes in the Baroque style. The roof is gabled, with Arabic tiles, and is partially demolished.

Inside you can see, in the nave, diaphragmatic arches made of bricks, while the triumphal arch is semicircular. In the apse the remains of the niche that housed the Virgin are preserved. The complex is made of bricks and is plastered and has evidence of the moldings and polychrome that decorated it. Two semicircular pillars stand out on both sides of the niche, which generate windows. The entire ensemble is finished off with a molded cornice.

As for the rectory, a popular work, in the part closest to the church the walls retain their full original height, while at the opposite end they are practically demolished. These remains allow us to know that it was a masonry building with a ground floor and two floors covered by an Arab tile roof. Some windows with flat lintels are preserved.

What is known as the Casa dels Masovers would be the building in the lowest part of the complex. It is a property, with a rather quadrangular floor plan, in a state of ruin. It still has quite complete walls. Like the rectory, it would be of popular work, made of masonry, with a ground floor and two floors covered by an Arab tile roof.

Some buttresses reinforced the walls. The preserved openings are mostly rectangular, with the lintel formed by a wooden beam.

There has been some controversy over whether the correct spelling of this site was ending with ‘E’ (Jafre) or ‘A’ (Jafra). Ignasi M. Muntaner (1983) and Vicenç Carbonell (1984) have poured rivers of ink on the historical justification of the different spellings. Finally, in accordance with the recommendation of the Institut d’Estudis Catalans, since 1995, it has tended to be used with “E”: Jafre.

His name would be, according to some authors, of Arabic origin and would correspond to a personal name. However, there is no evidence that there was a Muslim nucleus prior to the Christian repopulation.

The first mention of Jafra (“Yafer”) dates back to the year 1139, along with Garraf and Campdàsens. A little later, in 1143, it is mentioned as “Iocum de Iafar”, belonging to the castle of Eramprunyà. Later, in 1163, in the royal foundation of the monastery of San Vicente de Garraf, the testimony of Ramón “de Yafar” is found (Ancient Archive of Santa Ana, no. 366).

In later centuries other characters identified themselves with Jafre as their place of origin, signing “Jafer”, “Jaffer” or “Jaffero”.

The place of Jafre gave its name to its castle (1332), the stable (1533), the barony (1622) and the district (1867). As for Santa María de Jafre, the walls and decorations reveal the various reconstructions that the church has undergone over time.

In 1305 we know that a parish priest served in Jafre. However, in 1415 there was a pastoral visit by the bishop to “Santa María del Castillo de Jafra” in which a church “in good condition” was described.

The lordship of Jafre was linked to the castle of the same name and the lands that surrounded it. Its owners were, throughout the 13th and 14th centuries, royal judges or mayors of Vilafranca del Penedès, and in 1332 (at least) they were already treated as men.

In 1365 the baron was Bertran des Coll, and the title belonged to the Bertran family, until through marriage it passed to the Catà (18th century) and successively to the Martí.

In 1432 the “perpetual union of the church of Santa María de Jafra with that of San Pedro de Olivella” took place. It seems that in the year 1413 all its inhabitants had died or fled, since it is said that Jafre “had neither rector nor parishioners.” According to the statistics of Josep Iglésies, in 1400 in Jafre there were 9 houses and 56 inhabitants.

In the years 1617-1623, a dispute took place between the male lords of Jafre and the parish priest of Olivella, who alleged that “the said Church of Jafre was intended to be a simple private chapel and not suffragan”, which ended in an agreement to carry out a mass every 15 days.

In 1672 the church was called “Chapel of Our Lady of Jafra”, a name that has persisted until recent times. Due to the dates inscribed in different parts of the building, it must have been renovated in the years 1688, 1850. Los Papiol (1717), whose house is now the Romantic Museum of Vilanova y la Geltrú, and in Los Torrents (1817).

It is said that, in 1714, the then Baron of Jafre welcomed Rafael Casanova, wounded (and wanted by the Filipist victors) in a house he had in Barcelona, ​​first, and, when the search calmed down, in the mansion that the Jafres owned. They had it near the parish church of Sant Boi de Llobregat.

In 1728 it is reported that within the municipality of Olivella there is the church under the invocation of the Virgin Mary, called Jafre, near which is the parish priest’s house, which celebrates mass on alternate days. There is also a cemetery. Everything is good and well managed. In the Floridablanca census of 1787, Jafre had 68 inhabitants and its own mayor.

The barony of Jafre still had its own term in 1790. but at the beginning of the 19th century, with the death of Francisco de Papiol, the last mayor of Jafre, the town ceased to have a mayor and in 1819 it was incorporated into Olivella.

In 1845, it had thirteen houses and the inhabitants had decreased to sixty-two, the public chapel remained active, wheat and wine were produced in the village, goat and wool cattle were raised and rabbits, partridges and hares were hunted. There was a fassina (“the Fassina”) and they exported wine.

In 1850, the church was restored again, as well as the cemetery. Around this decade, specifically in 1859, it is also known that Jafre’s houses were: Maset de Dalt, Maset de Baix, Fassina, Casa Marcé, Casa Ramonet, Casanova, La Capella, apartamento de la Capella, más Llorens, más Vendrell, Masnou, Morsell, Plana Novella and Masover.

In 1860, in Jafre there were fourteen inhabited buildings and one unoccupied and in 1867 these houses were assigned numbers of the newly created District of Jafre, while in 1913 there were fifty-four inhabitants living in seventeen houses.

In 1819, Jafre lost its last mayor and was permanently incorporated into the town of Olivella, surely because of the aforementioned parish ties. The traditional economy of Jafre was based on firewood and pastures. Towards the 17th century, vineyard cultivation intensified. However, phylloxera (1879-1880) caused the progressive abandonment of the land. Jafre still had 19 inhabitants in 1960.

As a curiosity, from the rehabilitation of Jafre carried out by Marianna Bertran (1660), the existence of a well in the area called Los Vinyals is documented, around the year 1662 (Joseph Cata and Bertran, to whom they paid taxes, reserve the ownership of a well existing in said piece of land, known as Pozo de los Cañas).

It seems that, once phylloxera was overcome, until 1920, Jafre experienced a few decades of consolidation. After the Civil War, a progressive decline and abandonment of the land began. Little by little it became depopulated, with only a few isolated farmhouses remaining active.

At the beginning of the 1960s, Mn. Ramon Català, parish priest of Olivella, noted the state of degradation of the church and the Jafre cemetery. Together with some residents of the municipality, they took the remains in the Jafre niches to the municipal cemetery of Olivella. They also moved the only bell that remained in the church to the bell tower of the parish church of Sant Pere. They will also recover the iron cross at the entrance to the cemetery.

Jafre still had 19 inhabitants in 1960. It is known that the last inhabitants left in 1964. The town had had several farmhouses, all currently uninhabited, some that are within the municipality of Olivella such as the Masets de Jafre, and others still alive, such as the Mas Mercer (or Marcer, the Fassina (which houses the “Jafra Natura” entity, dedicated to the dissemination of knowledge of the “Garraf Natural Park” and the Plana Novella, currently with a Buddhist monastery. The Jafre stream is a tributary and tributary of the Begues stream (Ribes stream in its final section).

In 1997 the town was acquired by the Barcelona Provincial Council, (214 hectares), beginning improvement work (construction of a parking lot and cleaning of the surroundings) and protecting access to the church, and the uninhabited houses.

It should be said that the terrain of Jafre is arid and rocky, with little presence of water, facts that make cultivation very difficult, which is why it has always been a very poor place in resources. Since the entire Garraf massif is calcareous, it is full of rocks and cliff stones due to erosion, as well as many caves, where shrubs predominate widely and the king is the palmetto (chamaerops humilis).

In Jafre, mixed wheat and wine were produced, goats and wool were raised, and rabbits, partridges and hares were hunted. There was also a brandy factory (la fassina) and they exhibited wine. Its abandonment was caused, as has happened in other places, by the exodus to places where life was more comfortable (sewers, running water, services, etc.).

The town, around 1950, the church and the cemetery were desecrated and demolished and the deceased were transferred to the Olivella cemetery, but in the sixties there were still around thirty scattered farmhouses, twelve of which belonged to Jafre and the remaining eighteen, In Olivella, of the latter, seven ended up becoming urbanizations, so many more people came to live there, and five were sold as plots to people who came from other towns.

Currently, the center of Jafre de Garraf has been uninhabited and completely in ruins for 60 years. So much so, that only some walls of the baron’s house, the masoveros’ house, and the parish priest’s house remain standing and you can still see the old church of Santa María de Jafre.

At first, the buildings were closed and the infrastructure was intact, but they have been victims of vandalism, looting, theft, etc. In 2003, Jafre began to be rebuilt by the Proyecto Jovial Association, but the project soon stopped and currently there is no plan to resume it. Currently, the town is in rubble and to avoid visits, the Barcelona Provincial Council has closed all access.

There is also a town called Jafre, near Verges, in the Baix Empordà region, (Girona). The name seems to be a variant of the personal name Jofre, of Germanic origin.

Unrelated, but of interest is the existence of the Egyptian pharaoh Jafra, also known as Jefren or Kefren or Kafhra. He was the successor pharaoh of Dedefré and was succeeded by Mycerinos (or Mikerinos, or Menkhaura), of the fourth dynasty. Another curiosity is that some parapsychologists and others given to investigating paranormal phenomena have left some of their investigations written on Jafre’s remains, among which it seems that some psychophonies were made near a cypress tree near the cemetery, next to the church and They say (let everyone take it as they wish) that there you can hear it like a child calling for its mother.

This paranormal story is why the media has spread Jafre’s name to the public. I believe that this high-profile topic should not be discussed here.