Huesca thematic

Number 84. May of 2005. Spanish language  Principal menu

Wells for the snow and the ice in the Upper Aragón

Old refrigerators,
ice warehouses in the province

      The use and consumption of the snow and of ice is a commerce hardly known for the immense majority the people who belong to the last generations. Nevertheless, in the period of time including between centuries XVI and XIX it was one of important and beneficial also activities and at issue economic for some councils and individuals.
     According to historians, the consumption of cold drinks has its origin in the "Mesopotamia" area 4.000 years ago. In classic Greece the use of the snow is an usual practice , as well as at the time of splendor of Rome; the writings relate the confrontations caused because of the snow, somebody in favor of using it for the treatment of diverse diseases and others watching with distrust its use, considering an ample picture of the evils that could carry. Advancing in the time, they appear documents in the Muslim Literature that offers abundant documentation on the subject. From century XV, the consumption of the snow begins to being common between the nobility, high classes and the clergy. It is the initial phase of an important commerce that had its peak to end of century XVI and staying throughout centuries XVII, XVIII and XIX. The arrival of the technological advances and, like consequence of it, the elaboration of the industrial ice "cut in dry" (was finished) this important commerce.

      The refrigerators in the province of Huesca
      Throughout the named centuries, the great demand of this product took with himself the construction of numerous snow refrigerators or wells in our province as much in the mountain like in the low Earth; they are possible to be differentiated in two sections:
      The refrigerators of "supplying" they are located in mountains. The forms are generally cylindrical, of vertical walls: the covers are the less known parts, some have vaulted ceiling of stone equally; others were covered with branches and planks and were sealed with slabs of stone. Throughout the winter the snow were picked in them advantaging the snow showers; that was the moment that the specialist workers took advantage in order to fill the well in layers of about 40 or 50 cm. of thickness separated to each other with straw. The well was emptied in the months of summer to be transported them to the low Earth when it was solicitd. The transfer took place with cavalries in great baskets and when it arrived at the destiny, it was weighed and the conditions of quality and cleaning were verified. Since then, it was kept in appropriate places for its distribution.
     The refrigerators of "production" were the constructed ones in the urban central area. They had several utilities and its function was to keep the snow brought from mountain wells and, on the other hand, to produce ice and to conserve it for its later consumption; to this last they arranged in the neighborhoods of rafts where the ice formed that was introduced pressed in the interior of the well. These refrigerators denominated of "production" respect in occasions the cylindrical forms of the located ones in mountains, but they have square plants also.

      The commerce in the province of Huesca
     The distribution of the snow to sale places were complex, given the nature of the product; in any case, an agile distribution was obtained. Like example, the city of Huesca, whose center of distribution was in the "Nevería Passage"-recently disappeared-, established rigid rules; the snow in perfect state, was sold without interruption from the Sunday of Easter to All the Saints day.

      The sale schedules were severe, except for cases of disease, for that it was possible to be sold throughout the twenty-four hours of the day. The prices varied based on which the buyer was resident or stranger and the fines sanctioned any infraction of the established laws.
      Barbastro, with two great wells located in the population, was one of the cities where better the characteristics were contemplated of distributioning of the commerce of the snow and the ice. Documentarily the strong fines are known that fell on the suppliers in case it lacks in the city the product. Neither it could lack snow the days that the "bulls would run" in the city (bullfighting) where, in addition, the landlord had to make available of "gentlemen prior and juries a snow load". Either it was allowed that no "foreign neither neighbor can sell nor enter snow or ice but only the landlord that will be of thissnow". In no case it could lack in the dates in which they celebrated Cuts. They are some extracts of the peculiar characteristics that they had the protocols of renting of the snow.

      The distribution networks
     The snow-ice well network includes practically all the territory provincial. The city of Huesca had several wells distributed in mountain ranges located to the north of the capital that served as supplying to Provincial hospital and to the distributing center of the "Nevería Passage" street.
      All the mountain range of Guara is populated of wells -being documented majority of them emphasizing of the Mountain range of Sevil and zone of Rodellar; the snow conserved in it were distributed between the populations of Adahuesca, Alquézar and Barbastro, among other populations. Also documents are known of the supplying of Monzón with brought product of wells of Benabarre, Calasanz, Fonz, Camporrells, etc. The city of Jaca was served not only with the snow of the Pyrenean, but of the constructed refrigerators for such purpose in summits of Monte Oroel. The low Earth of province had several wells in different populations, distributed so that they covered the supplying in the south of the province.
 Plaza de San Pedro
     Serve these lines to remember the importance that had at last times the use of the snow and ice, to not only conserve foods, but also stops diverse therapeutic treatments. Forgotten until few years ago, the last investigations have sparked off interest by the subject; not only at level of knowledge in general, but to traverse of different official organisms also . As a result of it, they are several the snow wells that are being rehabilitated in the province and other waitinf for recovery. Performances that must follow advancing with two objectives defined clearly: to equip these constructions of an official protection and to conclude the descriptive and documentary catalogue of the network of refrigerators in our province.


* Text and photos: courtesy of Mr. Pedro A. Ayuso

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