Once upon a time there lived in medieval Barcelona a businessman by the name of Marcus who was a big shot in the city since he controlled all the incoming land and sea post. Marcus had started off as a mere courier but his wits and ambition helped him become the Head of Barcelona’s Postal Services and accumulate an enormous fortune.
One day the bishop of the church of Santa Maria del Mar paid Marcus a visit and said:
My dear Sir Marcus, my parish needs a cemetery to bury the members of the congregation but we are poor own no land. There is a mulberry tree garden next to our church, which belongs to you and you would do the parish and our Lord a great service if you donated it to be used as a cemetery.
Marcus looked like he had just swallowed a bottle of acid for he was definitely not a charitable man and had no intention of parting with his land for free. But he was in a tight spot: refusing a priest’s request was bound to damage his reputation. So he came up with an ingenious way out: carefully choosing the right words he replied:
Of course, I will be happy to cede my garden for your cemetery on one condition only: if you don’t bury anyone there in the next 15 days, it will mean that there is no real need for a cemetery and our contract will be annuled.
The bishop agreed but two weeks later everyone in the parish was still alive and kicking so Marcus came to Santa Maria del Mar to cancel the agreement. He was just about to sign the annulment document, mentally congratulating himself on his good fortune of both keeping the land and staying on good terms with the bishop, when he suddenly had a heart attack and dropped dead!
At first the priest was shocked and saddened but his grief was short-lived when he realised that 15 days had not passed yet and he had a body to bury. So he exclaimed in a rather unchristian fashion:
Praised be the Lord! Our dear Sir Marcus came here to ratify our agreement not to annul it and for that purpose he brought his own cadaver to the church!
And this was how Marcus became the first person to be buried in the mulberry garden by Santa Maria del Mar, which became known as the Cemetery of Mulberry Trees or in Catalan the Fossar de les Moreres. Many years later, in 1714, it would turn into the final bloody battleground of Catalan nationalists against the Castillian troops and now there is a monument commemorating their sacrifice.
But it all started with Marcus, the courier…