Na Burgesa & Bendinat Castle
If you drive along the road from Palma towards Magaluf and Andratx you could be forgiven for not knowing that a 15,000 strong army of knights and foot troops marched along the same route almost 800 years ago. A similar sized army was waiting to stop them reaching Palma. In September 1229 King Jaime I had landed at nearby Santa Ponça at the start of his conquest of Mallorca. Check out the Sant Elm webpage for the story of the crossing and the Santa Ponça webpage for the story of the landing.
The Catalan troops defeated the Moors near the beach and then spent an uneasy night. After mass, the army moved towards what is now Magaluf where the rest of the army was waiting in ships in Porassa Bay. Once the beach was secured and his army was reunited on shore, the advance towards Palma began. A small chapel was built at the alleged site of the mass, alongside the motorway between Magaluf and Santa Ponça.
Emir Abu Yahya had an army of around 15,000 and deployed his army near Bendinat, where the Na Burgesa hills are close to the sea and he could not be outflanked. Ships lookouts had spotted the army from Porassa Bay and Jaime knew what was waiting for him. Jaime also had around 15,000 men, but 1,500 of them were mounted and much better armed than their opponents and while the Emir had the advantage of position, Jaime held the rest.
While the Montcadas took the vanguard's left wing, Count of Ampurias and the Knights Templar took the right wing; Nuño Sancho would follow with the rearguard. However, while the King and his barons were finalising their plans, around a third of the army began advancing without orders. The King quickly rode out and stopped them, making them wait until his mounted troops were ready. As soon as the rest of the troops had moved up, Jaime's army advanced along the foot of the Na Burgesa hills to meet their foe.
Little is known about the battle what happened next but assumptions and conclusions can be made. While the Montcadas advanced along the foot of the hills, Count of Ampurias and the Knights Templars advanced along the coast. The knights and their mounted retainers broke into a canter as they neared the Emir's line, charging through the lines of Moorish foot soldiers. Soon the air was filled with the shouts, cries and screams of battle as the Catalan knights spurred their horses forward, swinging their weapons at the darting men while the Moors retaliated with spears, arrows and stones.
As the knights rallied back to rest their horses, the Emir's troops counterattacked, hoping to reach Jaime's foot troops while the knights reformed. And then the knights charged again. As the Catalan vanguard hacked at the Moorish line, Jaime was concerned he had not seen Nuño Sancho's rearguard and sent a messenger to find him. He soon appeared, having made sure that his troops were ready to support the vanguard. As the battle ebbed back and forth, it was clear that it was swinging in the Catalan favour and the time for deploying the rearguard was near.
As the King trotted forward to get a better view of the battlefield, he met Guillem de Montcada with blood pouring from his face where he had been hit by a slinger's stone. Jaime told him to "turn again to the battle a good knight, for such a blow as that should make you enraged, not leave the battle."
As Guillem cantered back to the battle line, Jaime stopped at a prominent point with his bodyguard of twelve knights and their men. The standard bearer held Nuño Sanc's flag high, the instruction for the rearguard to advance and Jaime watched eagerly as the knights and their retainers trotted forward. They were heading straight for a large red and white banner in the centre of the Emir's line. Jaime wanted to join them but Nuño stopped him with the words " [your] madness on this day will be the cause of our death." James replied "I am not a lion or leopard, and since you will have it so, I will wait; God will see that ill will not come of it!"
As Jaspert de Barberá led the reserve forward, Nuño joined them with the rearguard until 200 knights and their supporters were trotting towards the Emir's army. When they broke into a canter, it was more than the Moors could take and they ran for their lives. Many were cut down but the knights' horses were too tired to turn the retreat into a rout and the call was put out to rally on the King's standard.
Jaime wanted to continue the chase only to be told by Nuño; "Oh! my lord, you are doing what no King ever did; no general who has won a battle, but passes the night on the field to learn what he has lost and won." He then reminded the King that it was "a good day for you and for us; all is ours, since you have won this battle."
As the Royal party trotted across the battlefield, they learnt how Guillem and Ramon de Montcada had been killed from the Bishop of Barcelona. Jaime trotted up the slopes of Porto Pi hill and from the summit he could see Porto Pi harbour and the Moors running for their lives. But it was Medina Mayûrqa (what is now Palma) that took their breath away. They could see the mosques, the houses and gardens; all surrounded by a city wall; and in the centre was the Almudaina with the palace and the city's main mosque.
With night falling, the army struck camp alongside a stream, so the men and horses could be watered. The Royal standard marked the centre of the camping site and it was kept as small as possible, with lookouts keeping watch. After dark the King led his barons in search of the battlefield for the bodies of Guillem and Ramon de Moncada. They were confronted with macabre scenes but found their friends and buried them at midnight; one of the few to be buried in a marked grave that day. The Montcada's cross stands alongside the old road running from Palmanova to Santa Ponça, north of Magaluf.
Although Jaime's army had defeated the Moors, they still had to capture Medina Mayûrqa. It was time to make camp, unpack the siege engines and begin to break down the city walls. Check out the Puigpunyent webpage to read about the siege of Palma.
It is possible to walk along the summit of the Na Burgesa hills. Leave the motorway at the Costa d'en Blanes turning, and drive up the hill through the estate. The footpath starts next to a parking area at the top, just off Carrer de Sant Joan.
The story goes that Bendinat derives its name an incident following the battle described above. After making camp, King Jaime and Don Nuño met in Don Oliver de Termens' tent to discuss the day's events. Oliver's servants prepared a meal for the royal guests and after dinner the King remarked that he just had a "buen dinat" , or a good meal; hence the name Bendinat. Another theory is that it was named after a Moorish farmhouse called Bendinex.
Alongside the motorway is Bendinat Castle, a private residence. Francesc Burgues, Solicitor-General of the Spanish Crown, owned Bendinat farm in the 16th Century. Hence the name of the hills; Na Burguesa. The estate passed to the Marquis de la Romana in the 17th Century and Pedro Caro, 3rd Marquis of la Romana (1761-1811) made plans for a new manor house in the style of a castle. Caro fought in the Peninsular War under the Duke of Wellington, helping to drive Napoleon's French troops from Spanish soil. He died suddenly on campaign but his dream for a new house was not forgotten. Bendinat Castle was built by his family between 1855 and 1867 in Central European Gothic architecture style.
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