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Pollença

pollensa town, mallorca (majorda)Pollença town sits in the centre of a horseshoe of hills at the northeast corner of the island. People have been living in the area since prehistoric times and one of the first groups lived at S'Estret de Ternelles, north of the village and they lived in boat shaped structures called Naviform buildings. More Naviform buildings were discovered at Bóquer on the north side of Pollença Port and a wooden horse dating from around 300 B.C. was discovered at nearby Bous de la Punta. The carved sculpture was used as a coffin and you can see a reconstruction of it in Pollença Museum. There were also two walled settlements to the east of Pollença. Can Daniel Gran was one of the largest on Mallorca around 1,000 BC and it had a circular wall and both round and square towers; nearby Can Vidalet also had several towers.

The Romans conquered Mallorca in 123 B.C. and Quintus Caecilius Metellus founded Pollentia near Alcúdia. The only relic from this time is the bridge over the Sant Jordi stream on the north side of the village. It gave access to the fertile land north of the stream and the mountain range beyond. Look out for the signs for the Pont Roma.

pollensa town, mallorca (majorda)By the 5th Century A.D, the Roman Empire was in decline and Pollentia was razed to the ground by the Vandals in 425 A.D. The survivors could not face rebuilding their town and they moved where Pollença is today and it was one of the few inhabited places in this part of the island during the Dark Ages. The area was known as Juz-de-Bulânsa district during the Islamic period and over time the Moors turned the dry valley into fertile fields with water channels and wells and harnessed the power of water with water wheels.

Pollença as a community began life following the conquest of Mallorca in 1229. The Bulânsa district was given to King Jaime I and he in turn gave the Pollença area to three groups; the Knights Templar, the Knights Dartusa from Tortosa and the Bishop of Mallorca.

pollensa town, mallorca (majorda)Over the years that followed the Templars acquired most of the estates in the valley and they turned it into a prosperous one; they also built the Church of Mary of God of the Angels in the centre of the town. Records tell us that the Templars were strict landowners and they erected gallows on Temple Mount to remind the villagers what would happen if they disobeyed. A Calvary was built on the mount at a later date and there are 365 steps to the top; one for each day of the year.

By the end of the 13th Century Pollença was one of the most important towns on the island. However, the Templars had made powerful enemies and in 1307 King Philip IV arrested the French Templars with Pope Clement V's support; they were then tortured and burnt at the stake. Across Spain they were disbanded and their lands and money were distributed between the King's and other religious orders. James II did the same and in 1314 the property and privileges of the Mallorcan Templars were given to the Knights Hospitallers.

pollensa town, mallorca (majorda)During the dispute between King Jaime I's two sons in 1348/49, Pollença supported King Jamie II of Mallorca when he sought refuge in the local castle. The town was looted by King Peter III of Aragon's supporters and the villagers were threatened with their lives if they interfered. Check out the Cala St Vicenç webpage for more information.

The number of people in Pollença had reached 3,000 inhabitants when the Black Death struck in 1348, killing many in a few months; poor harvests meant that many more starved to death. All the villagers could do was to reach out to God and they built a Chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Mercy on the summit of Puig de Pollença (Pollença Hill), the crag on the south side of the village.

Plagues and droughts ravaged Mallorca in the 1440s and while the poor got poor, the rich got richer. Money was also required to support King Alfonso V of Aragon's war in Naples and the Counsell demanded ownership papers from the island's landowners (who were known as forans ).

pollensa town, mallorca (majorda)Pollença's gentry joined the rest of the island in the revolt against Palma and they even paid for a galley to be built so it could intercept ship's heading to the mainland. Check out the 15th Century webpage to find out more about the Forans War. The war ended in defeat for the forans in 1452 but Pollença leader, Peter Mascaro, fought on in the mountains. He was eventually tracked down and hung in Palma along with 24 of his supporters.

Rising taxes again caused troubles between the barons and the Germanias, or Brotherhoods and in July 1521 many barons were massacred in Bellver Castle , on the outskirts of Palma. Barons from the northeast part of the island sought refuge behind Alcúdia walls and the 500 men of Pollença's militia joined the siege. In October General Velasco and 2,000 of Charles I troops landed in Pollença Bay and on the 29th half of them marched on the town. The town's militia were cut down by the advancing Imperial troops and their dismembered bodies were hung from trees as a warning. Around 200 women and children who had taken refuge in the church were burnt alive. The devastation meant that 1522 would be forever remembered as the 'Year of Destruction'. Check out the Brotherhoods Uprising webpage for more information.

pollensa town, mallorca (majorda)It was not the end of the difficulties for the people of Pollença because pirate attacks against Mallorca were increasing. The villagers built the Chapel of St. George on the east side of the town as a meeting point for the militia when the alarm was raised and the biggest one was made by the Ottoman Admiral Dragut in May 1550. You can find out details of the raid on the Pollença Port webpage.

Dominicans monks settled in Pollença in 1578 and by 1616 they had built their church and monastery in the centre of the town, introducing unwelcome competition for the local clergy. The Church of Monti-Sion was also completed in 1745. The population was growing quickly until a serious epidemic swept through the town in 1744-52.

Senor d'Esbrull was one of the main landowners in the area and in the 1820s he built an aqueduct to the centre of the town, alleviating water shortages during dry periods. Although the population increased again over the next half century, a combination of poor harvests and increasing taxes caused many people to emigrate to Argentina around 1888.

pollensa town, mallorca (majorda)In 1829 a hospice was added to the Chapel of Saint George and it was later used by the nuns of charity. Around 1835 the Dominican Monastery, and the buildings belonging to Montesión and St. George Chapel became the town's property under the Prime Minister Mendizábal's decrees. The buildings were just three of hundreds across Spain that were taken from the clergy and given to barons to raise money and support for the civil war, known as the First Carlist War.

Visiting Pollença

The original town square is Plaza Major and it is in front of the Church of Mary of God of the Angels, the church established by the Knights Templar. Follow Temple Street behind the church and pass through Plaza l'Almoina to discover Montesion Church and the Town Hall.

The steps up Calvary Hill are just to the west. The chapel at the top dates from the 19th Century and the ancient statue of the Virgin Mary of the Foot of the Cross is inside. It is well worth climbing the steps to see the magnificent views of the town. Each Good Friday a parade re-enacts the Stations of the Cross along the back road before carrying out a mock crucifixion on top of the hill. There is also a silent torch lit parade as hundreds of people accompany the figure of Christ through the town dressed in religious cloaks and masks.

Head back down the steps and follow l'Ombra Street at the bottom to get to the Church and Convent of Sant Domingo. The large square in front is known as Liberty Plaza and it was once the cemetery. The tourist information office and the museum are inside the convent.

Torre d'Esbrull is next to the square and the tower guards would look out for the alarm being raised on the coastline when pirates roamed the Mediterranean Sea. It would in turn pass the message on to the church tower which would ring the bells to alert the villagers.

El Puig de Maria, or Maria's Hill, rises 330 metres above the south side of Pollença and the Chapel of El Rosal Vell at the top was dedicated to Our Lady of Mercy in the 15th Century. Monks and hermits have lived here over the centuries, worshipping the 14th Century statue of the Virgin Mary. The narrow track to the summit is signposted from the bypass (Ma-2200) on the southeast side of the town.

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