Santa Ponça (Santa Ponsa)
The natural bay of Santa Ponça has been a landing place for hundreds of years but the one that is still remembered during the lively September fiesta is the one in 1229; that of Jaime the Conqueror. The King's fleet found Santa Ponça by chance because winds had driven them off course during their voyage from the mainland and the scattered fleet had assembled in the shallow waters of St Elm. As expected a small army of Moors was waiting for them and the problem was how to get ashore safely. (Check out the St Elm webpage for more of the story).
Jaime ordered two of his advisors, Don Nuño Sanç and Ramon de Moncada, to look for another place to land and they sailed south, finding Santa Ponça with its sheltered cove and wide beach. Jaime was delighted to hear the news and that night his ships drew their anchors and slipped out of St Elmo Bay. However, the sound of splashing water alerted the Moors' sentries and the alarm was raised; the race to reach the beach was on.
As the sun rose over Mallorca, Jaime's fleet sailed into Santa Ponça Bay, finding it deserted. The first transport ship unloaded 600 footmen and they secured the nearby craggy outcrop as the knights and squires waded through the surf, followed by servants leading their horses.
While Nuño Sancho (the King's great uncle) and Berenguer de Santa Eugenia (commander of the Knights Templar) secured the beach, Ramon de Montcada and his retinue went in search of the Moors. They found them close by and easily scattered the foot troops. The Crusaders took no prisoners, repeatedly charging the Moors and by the time the horses were blown, 1,500 had been killed or mortally wounded; the rest fled, fearing for their lives.
By the time Ramon returned to the beach, the King's party was ashore and Jaime was annoyed he had missed the action. While checking out the site of the skirmish, his retinue spotted 350 Moorish infantry making their escape over a nearby hill. The King's group took up the chase and charged them down, killing around 80. Even Jaime killed a few and returned to his army a warrior with his own battle story; all he had to do now was become the conqueror.
Instead of getting congratulations, Jaime was reprimanded by Guillen and Ramon de Montcada, two knights from the Barcelona area. They reminded him to "restrain yourself, for in you lies life or death for us" . The stark fact was that if he was killed, the campaign would be over because his army would mutiny.
With evening drawing near, it was time to prepare the camp but attempts to arrange a guard did not go as hoped. While foot troops were posted around the perimeter, attempts to get 100 mounted troops patrolling the perimeter failed. Many mounted troops had just landed and waiting for their retainers to unpack their arms. Only a few scouts rode out to join the outposts as the sun slipped below the horizon, leaving Jaime hoping that the Moors did not attack during the night.
The big question that night was; what had the Moors been doing all this time? Jaime would have to wait until after midnight to find out. In fact the scouts who evaded Ramon de Montcada's charge, made it to Medina Mayûrqa with news of the landing. Emir Abu Yahya put out a call to arms and assembled ready to move out because he wanted to meet the 'infidels' in open battle. He planned to deploy his army west of the city, where the mountains nearly met the sea around what is now Bendinat.
As the Emir's army moved onto the chosen battlefield, they were spotted, but how? When it became clear that it was unwise to unload all the ships in Santa Ponça Bay, Jaime directed part of his fleet to find another beach. Around thirty ships, carrying 300 knights and their followers, sailed around Cap de Cala Figuera, to the south, and anchored in Porrassa Bay where there was another suitable beach for landing, (now known as Magaluf Beach).
Don Ladron had orders to wait offshore until the rest of the army marched up so they could land safely. However, towards evening, a ship's lookout spotted movement on the horizon to the east. Thousands of troops could be seen gathering and tents were being erected; it was Emir Abu Yahya's army. Don Ladron sent a messenger back to Santa Ponça in a small boat and while he reached the shore well after dark, the news did not reach the King until midnight. The barons warned Jaime against taking action until daybreak, to prevent causing alarm. Instead they gathered in the King's tent at first light and listened to the Bishop of Barcelona's fiery mass, promising them everlasting glory in Paradise if they died in battle. With the scene set for a day of battle, King Jaime was about to leave Santa Ponça. To find out what happens next check out the Na Burgesa webpage .
You can visit a couple of good places to appreciate what happened in Santa Ponça nearly 800 years ago. The first is Puig sa Morisco, or Moor's Hill, an archaeological park south of the resort, and it is signposted from the bypass. Turn left at the first roundabout onto Avenida Neuva Santa Ponça and again left at the second roundabout at the top of the hill. There is a parking place and you can follow the footpath to the top of the rocky outcrop, passing archaeological remains along the way because people have lived on the hill since the Talayotic era.
The second place to view Santa Ponça bay is from the cross next to the marina. Follow Avenida Del Rei Jaime I through the resort for 1.5 miles and you will see a signpost for the Cross (or Creu) on Via de la Creu. The cross was erected in 1929 to celebrate the 700th Anniversary of the landing.
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