The Supreme Court gives the right to the Arag and declares null and void the sale of the 96 works of art by Sixena to the MNAC and the Museum of Lleida

The works of art of Sixena of the MNAC and the Museum of Lleida they will not return to Catalonia. The Supreme Court has rejected the appeals of the Generalitat, the National Art Museum of Catalonia (MNAC) and the Consortium of the Museum of Lleida against the ruling of the Provincial Court of Huesca, in which the sale of the 96 works of art was declared null and void of the Monastery of Sixena. In a sentence of more than 130 pages, the plenary does not consider the purchase and sale contracts valid on the understanding that the owner of the goods was a legal person “different and independent of the one who acted as seller”. The First Chamber of the Supreme Court also recognizes “the special legal complexity of the litigation,” which justifies that no costs be brought in the process.

The owner of the goods, according to the sentence, it was the Royal Order of the Monastery of St. John of Jerusalem in Sixena, while the one that acted as a saleswoman was the Royal Order of the Monastery of Sant Joan de Jerusalem de Valldoreix. These are, according to the court, “different” religious entities therefore endowed with “an independent legal personality.”

As stated in the interlocutory, the goods in dispute were part of an artistic treasure of the Monastery of Sixena on the date on which it was declared a National Monument, by which the protection regime proper to the declaration “must also extend to this artistic treasure.” However, the chamber does not share the cause of the nullity, appreciated by the Huesca High Court, and linked to the infringement of the rules for the protection of the historical-artistic heritage and to the consideration of the objects sold “as non-commercial goods”.

According to the text, the various legal protection regimes that can be applied to contracts they do not determine the nullity of the sale and “neither from a canonical point of view nor from a civil law perspective can objects sold be classified as“ non-commercial goods, ”the text specifies.

Although, according to the interlocutory judgment, the disputed contracts of sale “complied with the requirements of canon law,” they do not meet the “additional civil law.” Specifically, the Supreme Court considers the Order of the Monastery of Valldoreix he had no power to dispose of the goods, since the Order of Sixena was the one who civilly owned the works. “There is no formal and reliable documentation of the act or canonical resolution that results in the merger or integration into a single legal entity of the Monasteries of Sixena and Valldoreix,” the court said.

In this sense, the Supreme Court confirms the criteria of the Huesca Court when it understands that the validity of sales “from the canonical point of view does not equate to the civil”. “The permission of the Holy See it cannot be equated, from the legal-civil point of view, to the legally enforceable administrative authorizations “, the document states.

In fact, the interlocutory memorandum recalls that the legal agreements with the Holy See of 1979, the State recognizes the civil legal personality and the full capacity to act than canon law he attributes to both religious orders as “autonomous monasteries,” a modality of legal personality provided for in the code of canon law. The Supreme Court also understands that the initial agreement for the deposit “does not generate self-interest to oppose restitution.”

The background of the sales contracts

The Monastery of Sixena belonged, until 1995, to the Bishopric of Lleida. From that year, it became part of the new diocese of Barbastre-Monsó, in Aragon. The ownership, at the date of the disputed contracts, corresponded to the Royal Order of the Monastery of St. John of Jerusalem of Sixena. In 1970, the nuns who made up the community of Sixena had moved to the Monastery of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem in Valldoreix (Vallès Occidental).

1972, the prioress of Sixena delivered the collection of artistic objects of the Aragonese monastery “as a deposit for its custody” -according to the sentence- in the Art Museum of Catalonia. Later, in 1983, 1992 and 1994, the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem de Valldoreix, represented by the prioress, sold to the Generalitat and the National Art Museum of Catalonia a series of lots, which are the core of the current litigation.

The Court of First Instance and the Huesca High Court they loved the demands of Aragon, the City Council of Vilanova de Sixena and declared null and void the purchases and ownership of the goods, in favor of the Order of St. John of the Monastery of Sixena. They also agreed on the return and transfer of the objects to Aragon, as it ended up happening in 2016 and 2017.

Delivery of the works in Aragon in two phases

Sixena’s works left the Lleida Museum on December 11, 2017 at the hands of Civil Guard agents, under the auspices of 155 and with Íñigo Méndez de Vigo as Minister of Culture. Guarded by technicians of the Aragonese government with the aim of confiscating, by court order, 45 goods of the Monastery of Sixena that the museum equipment of the Segrià guarded for decades. The procession left 14 hours later, amid dozens of protesters protesting at the museum door.

A year earlier, in July 2016, the Government authorized delivery to Aragon the 53 works of the Monastery of Sixena deposited in the National Art Museum of Catalonia, in compliance with the provisional execution of the sentence.


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