Sant Elm (San Telmo)
Sant Elm, or San Telmo, is a tiny resort at the south west corner of Mallorca named after Sant Elmo, the patron saint of fishermen, after an ancient hospital. Few tourists discover the village but the locals know where to find it. As they lie in the sun looking across the bay to Dragonera Island, they probably think that nothing important had ever happened there. In fact the calm waters witnessed a remarkable gathering of vessels in September 1229 as King's Jaime's fleet prepared to conquer Mallorca.
The ships left Salou, near Tarragona, on 6 September, and the plan was to sail past Formentor Peninsula at the northeast corner of Mallorca. As the King watched from his ship at the rear of the fleet, he remarked that "the sea seemed white with sails, so large a fleet was it". However, the winds soon changed and while Jaime's sea captain wanted to turn back; the King refused. On a spiritual level he believed that God would protect him but on a practical level he knew his army would leave him if they went home.
The fleet laboured on as the winds increased and the sea became rougher, tossing the tiny ships around like corks but by sunset of the second day, spirits soared as Mallorca's Tramuntana Mountains came into view.
The fleet weathered a second stormy night and by dawn it was clear that they had to abandon the plan to land in the Pollença Bay and the King's advisor suggested sailing to St. Elm at the south west corner of the island. He knew of a sheltered bay and of an island where they could get fresh water and rest the horses. But as they sailed along the north coast of the island, Jaime was in no doubt that they would be watched from the mountains; the question was who would be waiting for them at St. Elm?
On 7 September the fleet gathered in St Elm bay but they were not alone. Over 5,000 Moorish infantry and 200 horsemen were waiting on the shore. The King pitched his tent on the tiny island of Pantaleu, close to the shore, and during the night a Moor named Ali swam across with information about Mallorca. The information allowed Jaime to make new plans because they had to find out how to get ashore without being attacked.
Although details about Jaime's fleet are sketchy his army had around 150 mounted knights and 15,000 foot soldiers. The ships also carried a number of siege engines and a large amount of stores.
Jaime's own account lists seventeen galleys which carried the elite of the army while the foot soldiers were in twenty-five transports and each one had around 600 sea-sick men jammed inside. While 100 brices and galliots carried the horses, eighteen taridas (or tartans ) carried the siege equipment and barques were filled with stores. Some of larger ships probably towed the smaller vessels across to Mallorca. In summary over 150 ships were gathered in St Elm's waters, a medieval D-Day invasion fleet if you wish; the likes of which the Moors had never seen before. To find out what happened next, look at the webpage on Santa Ponça...
In my opinion, dusk is the best time to St Elm because the sun turns the landscape all shades of colours as it disappears behind Dragonera Island. A painted tile mosaic can be found near the jetty where boats ferry visitors across to the island, tucked around the corner of the restaurant. Check out the webpage on Dragonera Island if you wish to visit the nature reserve.
My favourite spot is south of the village. Take the left turn immediately in front of the beach and follow the road up past the apartments and villas. After around 300 metres there are a couple of viewing points on the right side of the road; they both give you panoramic views across the bay. If you continue out of St Elm by this back road, you will come across the watchtower which was built to keep watch over the bay.
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