With notes and unabashedly plagiarized passages from:
Houses & Palaces of
by Marella Caracciolo and Francesco Venturi (London: Tauris Parke
Books, 1996) and
The Rough Guide to Mallorca and Menorca (Rough Guide,
Mallorca has long been known as one of Europe's very popular sunny getaways.
Mallorca is the largest of the Balearic Islands, an archipelago in the
Mediterranean Sea comprising Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera. Over
the past 20 years Mallorca has become a mecca for cyclists looking for beautiful
weather, idyllic cycling roads, superb coffee, and thousands of fellow cyclists.
The estimated 300,000 cyclists a year who visit this cycling paradise have
discovered that the bicycle is the ideal transportation to explore this historic
Archaeological evidence indicates that people have inhabited the islands for
thousands of years. In 38 BC, Mallorca became a part of the Roman Empire. The
language and customs of Rome, including Christianity, were assimilated by the
In AD711, Arabs invaded the Iberian Peninsula, mainland Spain, but Mallorca and
other Balearic islands remain autonomous until AD902.
The Moors - AD 902-903
As legend would have it, Isam al_khawlani, a rich Muslim traveling form his home
in Cordoba unwittenly bumped into Mallorca on his way home to Mecca. He loved
the island so much he went home to ask his boss, the Emir, if he could conquer
the place. The Emir said, sure why not, and Isam returned to Mallorca and took
over the place, proclaiming himself governor (wali) of Mallorca. The city of Palma
was then known as Medina Mayurqa.
Before Isam came to Mallorca, the island had been looking decidedly desolate.
Its ancient cities were in ruins, agriculture was at a stand still and there was
generally not much happening there.
Isam, that would be Governor Isam, set about rebuilding the main city(now
Palma) and adapting it to the needs of his people. Indeed, Frederic Chopin, upon
visiting the island in 1838, wrote about Palma's "Arab look", which can still be
seen today: the dark narrow, winding street in the central Portella quarter, for
example, seem to evoke the intricate layout of medieval kasbahs, or
marketplaces. Secret patios and gardens hidden behind walls and doors of the
city palaces and many individual decorative details are also reminiscent of Arab
style and taste.
Under Isam, Mallorca became a dependant province of Cordoba. From then on,
for many years, the various governors of the island put their fleets to the
service of rulers of the peninsula.
1115 - Medina Mayurqa suffers a fierce attack by Pisans and Catalans united in an
attempt to eradicate piracy by Mallorcan Moors in the Mediterranean. The city is
conquered, but the Moors persuade the attackers to sell the island back to them,
albeit for vast sums of money. The Moorish domination of the island continues.
1127 - The Almoravide dynasty makes Mallorca an independent sovereignty. For nearly
50 years, Mallorca dominates North Africa, from the Maghreb and tripoli to the Sahara. The
Almohades, about whom little is known, were the last Arab rulers of Mallorca.
The Christian Invasion
By the time the Christians invaded Mallorca, less than 30 years later, Medina
Mayurqa was a well-organized and technologically advanced city rule by a
sophisticated upper class. Efficient irrigation systems were used to create many
wonderful gardens, including that in Alphabet, and those hidden within the great
walls of the Almudaina Palace.
1229 - An army of Catalans, led by the young Jaime I, invaded Mallorca. The invasion
caused a complete and violent rupture with the island's Islamic past.
Jaime I appointed an official called the King's deputy to govern the island. He
divided most of the land among his noble followers, who in turn handed them over
to their most valiant capitals, the cavallers. These soldiers and their descendants
built the earliest country mansions (casa de possessio) in Mallorca.
Christians came to settle in Mallorca. Most are Catalans from the Ampurdan
region, and they import and spread their traditions and language throughout the
The arts and architecture flourished.
1276 -Jaime II succeeds his father. Commissions the construction of the immense cathedral in Palma.
Commissioned the conversion of the Almudaina Palace into the royal palaces in
the villages of Valldemossa, Sineu and Manacor.
1324 - A childless King Sancho, son of Jaime II , dies, ending the independent status of
1343 - Following nearly 20 years of turbulence, Pere IV of Avalon annexed Mallorca to
his reign. Sancho's nephew, Jaime III tried to reconquer the island, but died in action.
1375 - The death of Jaime IV ends all aspirations of the Mallorcan House, the
descendants of Jaime the Conqueror.
1492 - The national and political unit of Spain is founded, of which Mallorca and other
Balaeric Islands have since been a part.
13 and 14 Centuries - Monuments and buildings dating back to the Moors were changed and readapted
by the Christains. The most impressive is the Almunaina Palace in the heart of
Palma. Built for the Moorish wali Abu Yahya, this fort-like palace embraces an
area of 20,000 square metres overlooking the sea. Since remodelled to suit the
kings of Spain and Aragon, it has recently become a government building.
The Golden Age
15th and 16th centuries
Mallorca established itself as an economic power and one of the major trading
centres in the Mediterranean, developing significant trade with the eastern
Mediterranean ports as well as with the Italian states of Genoa, Pisa and
Florence. Its strategic geographic location also allowed it to become one of the
main commercial centres for products from India and Africa.
All of this trading created a great deal of wealth. A new class of people, who were
not descended from the old aristocracy of the cavellers, settled in Palma. The
older families, who were now impoverished, welcomed the opportunity to marry
into the new aristocratic families and their fresh money.
Through the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, Mallorcans continued to live grandly
and build extravagant houses. The architecture design was influenced by the
Under the Hasburgs, the island's power as a trading centre began to wane. As a
kingdom of Spain and of the Holy German Empire, Mallorca had to contribute
arms, wealth and men to Charles V's increasingly expensive imperialistic dreams.
In 1526, Charles V ordered all Muslims in Spain to be either baptized or expelled.
A mass exodus ensued, with severe repercussions on both the economy and
culture of Spain.
Mallorca lost its geographical trading position when the Cape of Good Hope was
discovered as an alternative trading route for products from Asia.
1714 - During the War os Secession between the House of Austria and the Borbons,
Palma sided with the Austrians against Phillip V, the first French Ding to rule
King Philip, one to hold a grudge, never forgave the Mallorcans for this. In 1714,
after he took Barcelona, Philip Bourbons' troops besieged the island, abolishing all
autonomy enjoyed by Mallorcans.
Mallorca never regained the political status it had known in previous centuries,
though the island's trading history was revived, resulting in a period of urban
development and the building of many new palaces.
1806 - The city named 'La Ciutat de Mallorca' in 1276 is changed to Palma.
1833 - Isabel II crowned Queen of Spain. Celebrations in Palma last for three days.
1838-1839 - French composer Frederic Chopin and writer George Sand spend a disastrous
winter in Mallorca. (Read Sand's bitter account in Un Hiver a Majorque.)
1875 - A railway is built between Palma and Inca.
1876 - Archduke Luis Salvador of Austria arrives on the island. His extensive published
works about Mallorca attracted tourists in increasing numbers.
Early 20th Century, living in or visiting Mallorca was at the height of fashion.
Artist Joan Miro lived in Palma on and off between 1915 and 1919 painting
landscapes. Novelist Gertrude Stein and her lover Alice B Toklas spend many
months of 1914 on the island.
London-born poet Robert Graves spent most of his life of the island. He wrote
"Why I live in Mallorca", in 1953. Graves lived in Deia from 1930 until the
outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. He returned with a new wife and children in
the late 1940's, remaining until his death in 1985.Graves is buried in the
churchyard overlooking Deia. His house Canellum, or ca N'Alluny, remains in
Deia and can be visited.
1960 - Tourism boom begins in Mallorca
1997 - International Cycling Adventures brings first wave of Canadian cyclists to
Mallorca in annual trips to this cycling mecca.
2000 - Group of Canadian cyclists from ICA descend on Cala d'Or, making history as the
first group in the 21st Century. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Let's write the next chapters. (Bring your own pen!)