Secar de la Real & Puigpunyent
For directions how to get from Palma to Puigpunyent see map at bottom of the page
Just north of Palma is Monasterio de Sant Bernat de la Real, or the Royal Monastery of Saint Bernard. When the monastery was built in 1239, Palma was two miles away but the city's new hospital, Son Espases is now on the doorstep. The statue of Ramon Llull is in the middle of the cloisters and the writer and philosopher bequeathed his library to this monastery. However, the plaque by the monastery door tells us why it was built here.
While the area is peaceful now, back in the winter of 1229 it was the site of King Jaime the Conqueror's camp during the three month siege of Palma. His fleet had sailed to the island at the beginning of September (see the St Elm webpage) and landed at Santa Ponça (see the Santa Ponça webpage). As his army advanced towards Medina Mayûrqa, it encountered Emir Abu Yahya's army near Bendinat (see the Na Burgesa webpage), driving it from the battlefield. While the Moors locked themselves inside the city walls, Jaime set up camp on this windswept moor.
The camp was next to the area known as the Emir's Garden where the River Riera flowed a narrow valley and while some of the water supplied the city, the rest irrigated the terraces. Jaime chose to camp here so he had control of the city's water supply and was hoping to drive the Moors out by driving them mad with thirst. The name of the nearby village Secar de la Real literally translates as the King's Dryness.
While the mounted troops made sure the Moors did not leave Medina Mayûrqa, the foot troops surrounded their camp with a ditch and a wall of tree trunks. Meanwhile, the King's siege engines were unloaded in Port Opi and dragged to Bab al-Kofol Gate at the northeast corner of the city and set up behind wooden shelters called Mantelets. Jaime only had one lever action catapult called a Mangonel, but he had two Trebuchets and a Fonevol; two kinds of catapults improved by counter weights.
Medina Mayûrqa 's walls were not held together by cement but it was soon clear the siege engines were having little effect. The decision was taken to mine under them and while the Count of Ampurias supervised the tunnel west of the gate, Don Jaspert monitored the one to the east; King Jaime looked after the central tunnel. Teams of miners dug under the moat and it was dirty work made more dangerous when the Moors sallied out to attack.
By the end of October the siege was progressing well when there was news that one of the Emir's prince's had rallied 5,000 men in the mountains around Puigpunyent. They had also dammed Riera stream, cutting off the camp's water supply. Nuño Sanç and 300 knights tracked them down, killing many and scattered the rest into the hills. They triumphantly returned to camp with the heads of the dead and watched as they were catapulted into the city.
The siege was progressing slowly and as the winter weather worsened, food was running out. The camp was given a huge morale boost when the governor of Inca, Emir Benahabet, arranged supplies and guaranteed support from Moors across the island. It gave the miners time to finish digging under the walls and after filling them with flammable material they set fire to it and withdrew. One by one the chambers collapsed, bringing towers and walls crashing to the ground. Mules were used to pull the remaining props out of one chamber when it failed to collapse. With the wall down, Jaimes' troops could see that a second low wall had been built inside. They continued work undeterred, stacking tree trunks in the moat and packing them with earth to form a road to cross.
With his main wall in ruins, Emir Abu Yahya called for a meeting but when Nuño Sanç turned up, the Emir made out that Jaime had called the meeting. At a second meeting he pointed out that the city had ample supplies and his men were in good spirits. While he offered to cover the King's expenses of the expedition and allow him to leave in peace, Jaime refused. The Emir finally offered money in exchange for safe passage to North Africa; his offer was refused; Medina Mayûrqa would be taken by force.
Sieges were bloody affairs in medieval times and the Moors inside the walls knew that they would not be given any mercy. Meanwhile, pre-battle nerves were getting to everyone at the camp and as Christmas came and went there were few celebrations. With food running low and no money in his coffers to pay the men, Jaime had to win or abandon his attempt to conquer Mallorca.
New Year's Eve 1229 began with Mass and then as the Royal Standard fluttering in the breeze, Jaime called to his army; "My men; go on in Our Lady's name!" But nobody moved. He continued "Mother of our Lord God, I came here that the Sacrifice of your Son might be celebrated here; pray to him that we may not come to shame, I and those who serve me in your name and that of your dear Son." He finished with; "Up, my men, in God's name; why do ye delay?" Finally the foot soldiers marched towards Medina Mayûrqa with the men-at-arms and knights following. There was no turning back; the assault was underway.
The march was regulated by the shouts of "Santa Maria... Santa Maria!" and they increased with each step as the first wave of troops clambered over the moat. Many fell to the Moors' arrows but the survivors pushed on and when the Moors counterattacked, the men-at-arms dealt them. The knights bringing up the rear were soon in the streets, and despite the Emir's call to "Stand firm, stand firm" , his troops fled in the face of the charging horses.
Carnage followed and estimates put the number killed at around 20,000 while another 30,000 fled for the fields and hills. Emir Abu Yahya headed inside his Palace and while chaos reigned around the city, he arranged to surrender on condition that the Jaime spared the lives of his supporters. The Palace gates were flung open and when the King and Nuño Sanç rode into the courtyard they were met by the Emir dressed in white robes, mounted on his horse. After placing the Emir and his household under guard, King Jaime toured the city taking the Emir's son with him as a hostage. Medina Mayûrqa was his and the capture of the city is still remembered every New Year's Eve.
Visiting Secar de la Real and Puigpunyent
Leave the Via Cintura (Ma-20) at junction 7a, and head north for Puigpunyent. Turn right at the first roundabout onto Camino de los Reyes and go straight on at the first roundabout. As the road crosses the Riera stream, look left to see the wide valley which was the Emir's garden. Continue up the slope and straight on at the roundabout and after 400 metres turn left onto Camino de Real, the Royal Road; the Royal Monastery of Saint Bernard is at the end. Take time to explore the monastery and the views of the mountains.
Retrace your route, turning right onto Camino de los Reyes and after 400 metres turn right at the roundabout, signposted for Establiments. Head north past Secar de la Real and as you enter Establiments, bear left at the stone cross. The road crosses the valley and after one mile turn right onto the road into Puigpunyent, a small village in the Tramuntana foothills where King Jaime's knights and the Moors fought for control of the water.
Puigpunyent means pointed peak and the village church of Santa Maria was completed in the 14th Century. Two of the largest houses in the area are Son Net on the hill, now a hotel overlooking the centre of the village, Son Bruno to the north and Son Puig to the east.
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