People have been living around Santa Eugènia Hill since Pre-Talayotic times in caves such as those called Puig de Santa Eugènia, Es Puget and Son Matxina. The walled settlement at des Rafal proves that village life continued until the Romans came and farmed the area around the hill, living off cereal crops, vineyards and cattle. Under Moorish control the Zenata tribe established Benibazari farm in the area.
The name Santa Eugènia originates from the time following Jaime I’s conquest in 1229. Bernat de Santa Eugènia, Lord of Torroela (an area east of Girona), was one of the King’s leading advisors during the campaign and he was also commander of the Knights Templar which took in the invasion. He was the one of the first men ashore at Santa Ponça, at the southwest end of the island, and led his men into battle in the Bendinat area, west of Palma, a couple of days later. King Jaime then appointed Bernat de Santa Eugènia Governor of Mallorca as he prepared to return to the mainland; he would also be made head of the Mallorcan Knights Templar.
King Jaime planned to take Menorca by sleuth rather than force and Santa Eugènia played an important role in its capture. He was one of a group of three who sailed to Ciutadella harbour, on the west coast of the island and presented a letter to the island’s Kaid and his sheikhs promising them good terms if they surrendered. They also suggested that the King was ready to attack if they did not. Check out the Capdepera webpage in the Llevant section to find out the rest of the story.
Bernat de Santa Eugènia was appointed Governor of Mallorca when Mallorca was divided between the barons and their knights in 1230. The island had to be measured, land quality had to be assessed and mills and bakeries had to be counted to stop rivalries developing. Each baron received properties and land in proportion to their support for the conquest and the information was all recorded in the ‘Llibre del Repartiment’ or ‘Book of Division’. The Knights Templar were given properties in Palma, a large part of Pollença and Randa Hill to the south; Bernat de Santa Eugènia received the farm at the base of the hill that now bears his name.
The Knights Templar were disbanded at the beginning of the 13th Century after falling foul of King Philip IV of France and Pope Clement V. While the French Templars were accused of heresy, tortured and burned at the stake, their Spanish brothers were disbanded and their lands were confiscated. This appears to have happened to Santa Eugenia because the estate was divided up during the second half of the 13th Century.
The farms attracted labourers and in the 1400s they started to build houses around the square which bears Bernat de Santa Eugènia’s name. The villagers built their own church between 1583 and 1585 so they did not have to walk to Santa Maria and they rebuilt what we see today between 1699 and 1716. An extra chapel, the transept, the presbytery and the bell tower were added in the 19th Century.
The French invasion of Spain in 1808 and the Peninsular War that followed nearly resulted in Santa Eugènia’s independence when the new Spanish Constitution was signed in Cadiz in 1812. Unfortunately, it was cancelled when King Ferdinand VII was restored to power when the Napoleonic Wars came to an end. After a lot of furious wrangling, the village became separated from Santa Maria in 1840; the church was converted into a Parish Church in 1913.
Parking in the narrow streets can be difficult but there is a good village map opposite the front door of the church. If you want a good view of the village and its hill, head to Plaza des Pugat on the hill at the east end of the village where there are three 18th Century mills. You will also find a huge water reservoir in the centre of the village at the crossroads of Carrer Major and Carrer Aljub.
If you feel like a short, stiff walk, then go west from the main square by the church and head up the steep road, past a number of houses. At the top, turn right along the flat, narrow road, turning left up the footpath at the end. After a 15 minute climb through the woods you will reach the top of the hill where there is a dilapidated monument to the Sacred Heart and Queen Isabella of Spain. There are wonderful views of the Tramuntana Mountains along the northern horizon and the flat Pla area of the centre of the island.
Alternatively, you can visit Santa Eugènia’s very own Lourdes Cave on the road south west to Ses Olleries. Look out for the sign by a large wall on the right as you leave Santa Eugènia and then climb the steps to the hillside cave and its image of the Virgin Mary. They were inaugurated in 1920 by the local priest, Mateu Coll Rubi, and in 1942 the statue of Saint Bernadette was added.
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