High in the Tramuntana Mountains above Inca is the ancient monastery of Lluc, the most visited pilgrimage point on Mallorca. To make your own pilgrimage, follow the signs for Lluc from Inca, passing through Selva and Caimari before driving up the twisting road into the mountains. The right turning for the monastery is near the summit and is well signposted; it is just beyond the petrol station at the top of the climb.
Legend has it that Lluc Monastery was established in the aftermath of the Reconquest after a Moorish family had to hand over their mountain top farm to the Knights Templar. The family converted to Christianity so they could continue renting their farm and each morning their young son Lluc (Mallorcan for Luke) took the sheep and goats into the mountains. One day Lluc found a small dark statue of the Virgin Mary in the undergrowth and took it to the priest at the nearby Church of Sant Pere in Escorca, a building which dates back to 1247. Although the priest gave the figure pride of place in the church, it had disappeared when people came to worship it the following day.
Young Lluc found the statue where he had first discovered it and returned it to the priest but it again returned to its hidden hiding place. After several more attempts to keep it in Escora’s church, the priest concluded that the statue wanted to remain where it had been found. In 1260 work started on an Augustinian hermitage dedicated to Our Lady of Lluc on the spot. The Black Virgin finally had a home. Or at least that is the romantic version of the founding of Lluc Monastery because the other version is that it is named after the ancient Mallorcan word for forest.
Pope Calixtus III approved the establishment of the Collegiate In 1456 and Pope Clement VII granted Gabriel Vaquer the status of prior in 1531. A seminary was added in 1586 and accommodation was built to cater for the large number of pilgrims visiting from Soller, Pollença, and Inca.
A boys’ school was opened in the 16th Century to teach grammar and Christian doctrine and the pupils formed a choir called the Blavets or Blauets, (kingfishers) to sing during Mass. The choir is still going and it is famous across Spain; they sing Monday to Friday during the 11:45 and 16:45 Masses.
The Monastery’s reputation continued to increase and in 1884, 12,000 pilgrims climbed the mountain paths to celebrate the coronation of Bishop Peter J. Campins. Seven years later a religious order called the Missionaries of the Sacred Hearts, which had recently been formed by Father Joaquim Roussillon, moved to the monastery.
The large rectangular complex we find today is still hidden from the world, nestling in its timeless hollow in the mountains. It is still run by monks of the Sacred Hearts and their income comes from the shop, pharmacy, restaurant and museum.
After parking your car, walk towards the Monastery, passing through the entrance archway and note the old stables and workshops before passing into Pilgrims' Square (Plaça dels Pelegrins). The town hall building is on the left of the square and the rustic accommodation, known as the Porxets’ are to the right; rooms range from monk’s cells to en suite double rooms and apartments. Trees, fountains and a drinking trough dating from 1589 cool the air of the square. A number of plaques, stone crosses and statues can be found, including the busts of three well-known Mallorcan literary figures: M Costa i Llobera, Ll Riber and Antoni Maria Alcover.
Passing through the entrance, check out the reception desk where you can find information on the Sanctuary or book accommodation. Continue into the first courtyard where there is a statue of Father Roussillon, founder of the Missionaries of the Sacred Hearts. In the main courtyard Bishop Campins statue looks up at church’s impressive façade, with its ornate doorway and clock. Once inside we can appreciate why pilgrims climb the mountain tracks to visit the awe inspiring interior, an interior which was renovated by Antoni Gaudí and his disciple Joan Rubio at the beginning of the 20th Century. The Black Virgin can be found in the chapel behind the 17th Century altar. There is also a display of carvings of the council emblems.
You can also walk around the cloisters and the second floor is a large museum of over 1,000 objects ranging from prehistoric times up to date. (While entrance to the Monastery is free, the museum costs €4 per person). A Centre for the Interpretation of the Tramuntana Mountains, an area which was recently awarded World Heritage Status by UNESCO, is also being set up in the grounds.
Lluc Monastery once owned huge tracts of lands in the Tramuntana Mountains. Most of them were confiscated in 1867 and sold to local landowners during a period of unrest known as Spain’s Glorious Revolution. Shortly afterwards Queen Isabella II abdicated and the government was overthrown.
The Ca s'Amitger estate was returned in 1903 and it is possible to walk up Calvary hill to the cross on the summit behind the monastery. Gaudí designed the five sculptures dedicated to the Mysteries of the Rosary which stand along the route.
To find out more about Lluc Monastery check out its website at www.lluc.net
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