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Inca


Prehistoric settlements around Inca tell us that people have been living in the area for over 3,000 years. While any remains within the area of the town have long since been buried under buildings, there are Talayot towers at s'Ermita northeast of the town and on Santa Margalida Hill to the east.

Following the Roman conquest of Mallorca in 123 B.C., they established two main centres of population; the island's capital at Pollentia (near Alcúdia) to the northeast and Palmera camp (now Palma) to the southwest. Inca was on the road between the two and it served as a stopping off place for travellers.

Little is known what happened in this part of the island during the Dark Ages but when the Moors came to the island in 902 A.D. they made Inca one of their markets, calling the district Inkam. It was one of the largest settlements outside Palma when King Jaime I conquered the island in 1229.

While the Moors had been the first to make shoes on Mallorca, their industry was based in the capital. The first workshops were opened in the Inca area in the 1240s by new settlers and they took their wares into the town market, looking to exchange them for food. By the 14th Century two types of workshops had opened in the village and while the tanners turned the raw hide into coloured and treated leather, the cobblers hand crafted the shoes.

For 100 years it was a self sufficient industry but when better quality leather started to be imported from the New World in the 16th Century, many tanners were put out of work. Shoemakers who could not afford the imported leather were forced to make low cost footwear called tapins comprising fabric tops and cork soles.

Inca was a thriving town of 5,000 people when the bubonic plague struck in 1652 and killed 2,000 in a matter of months. The disaster paralysed the town for 200 years and the shoe industry suffered likewise.

inca, mallorca (majorca)
The Church of Santa Maria la Major.

 

inca, mallorca (majorca)
The shoemakers memorial.

In the 1850s Antoni Fluxà opened a new workshop and his idea of getting a cobblers to share tools and machinery made it the ideal business model for shoemaking. He went on to open more workshops and each one had twelve employees working side by side as they made shoes from start to finish. The first steam powered machine arrived in 1860 but while production improved, cobblers were put out of work.

The arrival of the train in 1875 meant that 100s of pairs of shoes a month could be taken to Palma, ready for export to the colonies. The loss of the colonies following the war with the United States in 1898 hit the shoe trade hard and it was some time before new markets were found on the mainland. Even so, the Queen Regent awarded Inca the title 'town' at the turn of the century as a mark of its increasing size.

Visiting Inca

Inca's main church is dedicated to Santa Maria la Major and it was built on the site of the Moors' mosque following the conquest by King Jamie I in 1229. In 1373 Joan Daurer painted a panel of Saint Maria of Inca which can still be seen today; Pere de Sant Joan sculptured a statue of Santa Maria la Major around the same time. The building we see today was started in 1706 but the church was not completed for nearly 200 years.

On the east side of the church is the rectory looking over Plaza Orient while at the west end of the building is Plaza del del Santa Maria la Major with its elegant restored colonnade; you will also see the stylish Hotel Domingo. Heading west from the church (moving through the centre of the market on market days), we come across Plaza d'Espanya with the fine Town Hall building and Casa Janer.

Continuing west we find Can Ripoll, an 17th Century manor house complete with tower and carved timber eaves, which was reformed in the 18th Century. It is typical of the manor houses built by Inca's wealthy landowners and while they had manor houses on their country estates, they preferred to leave the work to their manager while they enjoyed town life.

inca, mallorca (majorca)
C'an Ripoll.
inca, mallorca (majorca)
Santo Domingo's Cloister.

Turn right down the narrow Calle Santo Domingo and after 150 metres you will find Santo Domingo Church and monastery which were built between 1664 and 1689. In the 1830s the Dominican monks were forced to leave the monastery when it was confiscated under decrees made by Prime Minister Juan Mendizábal. The decrees were used to raise money to support Queen Isabella's cause when her uncle Carlos tried to seize the crown during the First Carlist War. Today the elegant cloisters are occupied by council offices and the town library and it is possible to walk where the Dominican monks once prayed in solitude.

Retrace your steps to Can Ripoll and turn right (southwest) and after 150 metres you enter Plaza de la Quatera where you will find the ornate Alhondiga, or Market Hall, which now houses a school of music. You will also see the two statues relating to the Inca's shoemakers, Inca's main industry for several centuries.

inca, mallorca (majorca)
The shoe museum is in the town barracks.

Continue southwest to the railway station, turning left before turning right under the railway bridge onto Avenida del General Luque. The old army barracks are to the left and if you step inside you can walk across the parade ground, past the 19th Century barrack blocks. The buildings are now home to Inca's Shoe Museum and you can see an exhibition of machinery and objects related to the shoe industry.

Most people visit Inca for the market, which is held on a Thursday, but you have to be there early to get the most from the endless rows of market stalls. The town is completely different without the hustle and bustle of the market; it is also easier to find your way around. To find out more about visiting Inca, visit the council tourism website at www.incaturistica.es (in English)

inca, mallorca (majorca)
Sant Bartomeu Convent.

Convent of Saint Bartholomew

On the hill north of the town is the Convent of Saint Bartholomew which was built during the second half of the 17th Century. Head north from the Church of Santa Maria la Major along Calle de la Font and the convent is at the top of Calle de las Monjas after 500 metres. The nuns of Saint Jerome have lived here since 1534 and they were often referred to as the 'Enclosed Nuns' because they never left their convent. You can enter the elegant courtyard to see the convent and you will also see the door which leads into the huge convent garden.

Follow the road around the east wall of the convent into Calle de los Molinos, or Mills Road, to find a line of ancient mills which have been converted into houses. At the end of the road (to the right) is the entrance to Serral de ses Monges Park, or Land of the Nuns Park. There are wonderful views of the Tramuntana Mountains from the park and picnic areas where you can rest your feet after a long day in the market.

There is a map of the Park by the entrance and look out for Sa Pota del Rei, or the King's Slip. If you follow a narrow track around the house west of the park entrance, you will find a small memorial plaque referring to King Jaime the Conqueror. In the King's 13th Century biography, the 'Book of Deeds' there is reference to a Moorish leader called Xuaip who had gathered an army in the mountains. They were terrorising the new settlers around Inca and King Jaime came to the area to personally sort out the problem.

Legend has it that while chasing one group of raiders, the King's horse slipped on the wet rock and if you look closely there is a hoof shaped groove in the rock next to the memorial. King Jaime eventually managed to negotiate a truce with Xuiap and nearly 20,000 Moors, many of them women, children and the elderly, left their mountain shelters having been promised they would not be harmed. However, a hardcore of around 2,000 refused to surrender, choosing to fight on in the mountains. They eventually agreed to leave the mountains after a long, hard winter.

Although the memorial is tricky to find, it is worth it for the wonderful views of the Tramuntana Mountains where the Moors once planned their revenge.

inca, mallorca (majorca)
Legend has it that King Jaime the
Conqueror's horse slipped here.
inca, mallorca (majorca)
Santa Magdalena Chapel.

Santa Magdalena Chapel

Heading east out of Inca, heading for Alcúdia on the Ma-13a, follow the signs for Santa Magdalena Chapel on the south side of the town bypass. The road twists and turns its way up the hill to the chapel at the summit where you can enjoy the views from the restaurant. People have been living on the hill since Talayotic times and there are remains of a walled settlement on the peak to the south of the chapel. The original chapel dated from the 14th Century but what we see today has been rebuilt and enlarged.


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