Santa Maria del Camí
The Pre-Talayotic remains in the Tramuntana foothills to the north of Santa Maria del Cami prove that people have been living in the area for over 2,000 years. One of the earliest group of remains are the caves at Es Cabàs, including Cova des Moro, an early Bronze Age burial cave. Later remains at Claper des Doblers and Puig de sa Talaia have been discovered in the same area. New farming methods were introduced by 1400 B.C. and by 800 B.C. several settlements had been established on the plain as farmers tilled the land and raised cattle.
The main two settlements formed the basis for the Santa Maria del Cami we see today. The settlement to the north was where the old road from Palma to Inca passes through the village. During the Roman era this was the main road between Palma and Pollentia, the Roman capital near Alcúdia (check out the Pollentia webpage to find out more about the Roman capital of Mallorca). A refuge gave travellers overnight shelter and food and a crucifix was added later for spiritual support. The settlement to the south grew up around the parish church.
The Moors named the area Canarossa and they harnessed the power of nature to improve their crops. They tapped the stream in Coanegra valley using channels, aqueducts and water cisterns and built terraces to make the most of the land. While olive groves were planted on the upper slopes, vineyards covered the lower ones.
The two villages grew up separately but they were eventually joined by the market which was established between them in 1300 by King Jaime II. Houses were built on the roads between the two villages until they were eventually joined together. What follows is a description of Santa Maria del Cami in three parts; the south end of the village, the north end of the village and the Coanegra Valley north of the village.
Santa Maria del Cami is full of one way streets. To reach the south end of the village take the turning off the main Palma to Inca road, east of main square, signposted for the XVIIth Church. Follow it all the way down to the parish church with its impressive bell tower. The original church was completed in 1246, not long after King Jaime I conquered the island, and dedicated to Nuestra Señora del Camí, or Our Lady of Cami. However, the impressive Baroque building we see today was blessed in 1718 while the main door was completed in 1756. The two ornate doors are decorated with bunches of grapes while the bell tower is decorated with grape coloured tiles, paying homage to the mainstay of village's economy for many years. They were erected at the instigation of Rector Mora, parish priest from 1750 to 1779. You will often see a branch drying out over a house door and they are used as a natural indicator for the fermentation and aging of wine. You will also find a memorial to Father Caldentey, parish priest from 1853 to 1887.
There is a statue to Father Joan Perelló i Pou, who was appointed bishop of Vic, north of Barcelona, in July 1927. He was forced to flee, fearing for his life in 1936 when the area came under Republican control at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. When the war was over he returned to his church and worked to restore the many churches destroyed in his diocese. He was still bishop of Vic when he died in 1870.
The focal point of the south end of Santa Maria del Cami is the square to the west of the church. The Casa de la Vila, or town hall, was built in 1671 and it had rooms for council meetings, court sessions and prison cells; it also served as the wheat market. It is home to a Gothic Retablo, or devotional painting, painted by Joan Massana in 1384.
On the opposite of the square was the home of Father Francisco Serra (1819-1872), a Franciscan missionary who took 80 brothers to Bolivia. They were based in the town of Tarija and worked with the tribes across the Chaco region, an area disputed by Paraguay and Bolivia at the time.
The heart of the northern end of Santa Maria del Cami is the busy Plaza dels Hostals where restaurants and shops line the old road from Palma to Inca. The 17th Century Church standing over the square is dedicated to Our Lady of Solitude and it has a magnificent sundial. Alongside is the Convent dels Minims which was opened in 1682 and occupied for 250 years.
The convent was sold to the Conrado family in the 1830s when the convent was closed and the community was forced to leave. They were many across the island forced to close when Prime Minister Medizabel sold ecclesiastical properties and lands to raise money to support Queen Isabella and bring the First Carlist War to an end. There is now a restaurant in the delightful courtyard while the rest of the building houses a museum of items through the ages from the local estates.
There is a large ancient water tank called Sa Sinia on Calle de Antonio Gelabert, leading northwest out of Plaza dels Hostals; it is kept filled with water by the local stream.
Turn off the main road to Binissalem next to the Macià Batle Bodega and head north towards the mountains. Two miles along Camino de Coanegra, in the foothills of the mountains, is Son Torella. The magnificent manor house stands next to a stream which is usually dry, but a system of channels, aqueducts and storage tanks make sure that the terraces of orange trees are kept watered.
The single lane track continues into a narrow valley which served as a refuge for bandits who often ventured out to attack the villages. While each baron raised militias, they were sometimes busy fighting each other rather than protecting their village from attack.
S'Avenc Son Pou is the largest natural cave on Mallorca and it is hidden deep in the Coanegra Valley. Legend has it that a farmer discovered it in the 18th Century when his mule disappeared into darkness below. The fate of the mule was not recorded but as the vast cavern measures 45 metres deep (or high), its chances of surviving would have been limited.
It is believed that the valley Coanegra might have been named after the cave's other name, Cova Negra or the Black Cave. It has also been called the Pigeon Cave because hundreds lived undisturbed inside until hunters found them.
Originally the only access was through the small hole in the roof and cavers had to be lowered down into the darkness with ropes and then return with pulleys. In 1894 Peter d'Alcántara Peña, a writer , painter, architect and engineer, excavated a low level tunnel entrance and it measures over 50 metres long, built. It is kept locked and can only be visited on an organised tour. Do not go looking for the opening at the top; remember what happened to the mule...
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