Sencelles & Costitx
People have been living in caves around Sencelles since the pre-Talayotic period and they went onto build large naviform houses out on the plain. There are two round Talayotic towers at Son Fred to the northeast and two square towers at Cas Canar to the southeast. Roman remains have also been found around these sites. During the Moorish period the estates around here were part of the Canarrossa district, which included the villages of Binissalem, Alaró, Santa Maria, Santa Eugènia, Costitx and Lloseta.
The area was given to Gastó de Montcada, Viscount of Bearn, following the conquest of Mallorca in 1229 and the name Sencelles was first mentioned in 1237. There are two theories why it was chosen; it either derives from the Latin word for arches or brambles, senticellas, or from the name of Pere de Centelles, who owned estates in the area. Only two years later the area was given to King Jaime I and he in turn gave the lands to the Bishop of Mallorca, the Archbishop and Archdeacon of Barcelona and the Sacristan of Gerona. In 1309 Jaime II wanted to increase the revenue from his lands and merged the Biniali, Costitx and Cascanar estates into the Sencelles parish.
Growth over the next 500 years was slow due to plagues, poor harvests and droughts and the survivors faced a hard life and high taxes. The droughts between 1732 and 1755 resulted in a particularly miserable time for the people of Sencelles.
The split with Costitx took place in 1858 although it brought to an end years of rivalry between the two villages, the Marquis of Campo-Franco had to step in to settle the exact boundaries. By this time Sencelles was one of the many villages on Mallorca benefiting from the wine shortage across Europe and the number of vineyards peaked at 127. However, the good times did not last long because the phylloxera pest struck at the end of the 1880s, ruining them all in a single season. Many people left the hamlets in the difficult years that followed and they never recovered. Today there are only two vineyards, check out the Wine Route webpage to learn more about Mallorca's Wine Route.
Today Sencelles is a sleepy village in the heart of Mallorca's plain and the parish church stands at its highest point in the centre. The first parish church for this area was built in Costitx, 2.5 miles to the east, in 1236 but only two years later the parish moved to Sencelles. The tiny church was dedicated to Saint Peter in 1248 but only a century later, work started on a larger church. The building we see today was begun in 1691 and took over 75 years to complete. The bell tower was finished in 1888. In the square in front of the Church is a statue of Sister Francinaina Cirer (1781-1855) which was sculptured by Jaime Mir and unveiled in 1955. Beneath are bronze reliefs of the three supporters of her Beatification, including Pope John Paul II.
Along the main road 250 metres to the west, tucked in Calle de la Caridad, is the Sisters of Charity Convent. When Sister Francinaina Cirer's father died in 1821, she turned her house into a place of prayer. Thirty years later she founded the convent and gave her single storey house to the congregation, and another floor was added for accommodation. The convent was extended many years later by buying the house next door.
There is a centenary plaque by the door and you can visit the oratory of the Mare de Déu dels Dolors, or Mother of Sorrows. There is a museum relating to Sister Francinaina in the convent rooms and her tomb is in the chapel.
The village of Costitx is 2.5 miles east of Sencelles and the name is derived from the Latin word Costaicium, which means farm next to the hill. Over time it was renamed Costaic and then Costitx. While there are many prehistoric remains in the area, including the Naves of Turassot des Metge and the ruins of Son Vispó, there is little evidence of Roman or Moorish settlements in the area.
An important discovery occurred in 1894 when a farmer discovered a shrine at Son Corró alongside the Sencelles road. He also found two bull head sculptures dating from the period of bull worship at the end of the Talayotic period. They are now in Madrid's Archaeological Museum. Bartoumeu Ferra was the first archaeologist to work on the shrine and he believed that the structure had 13 pillars supporting a roof. In 1994 Dr. Rosselló Bordoy did another survey and believed there were only six pillars and this is the layout we see today. Others believe that it was an open air structure.
By the time of the conquest Costitx only had a number of farms and windmills. King Jaime I gave the area to Gastó de Montcada, Viscount of Bearn and he in turn gave the Costitx estate to Arnau de Santacília. Santa Maria de Canarrossa church was built next door in 1236. The Rector's House was built in 1672 and 25 years later work started on building a larger church to accommodate the growing congregation; it took over 75 years to complete. In 1913 it became the Parish Church of the Nativity of Our Lady. The village itself had become independent from Sencelles in 1858. Check out the council webpage at www.ajcostitx.net.
Near to Costix is Mallorca's Observatory, with a range of telescopes beneath three domes. It was built here in 1991 to take advantage of the clear skies and works alongside similar establishments in Andalusia and the Canary Islands. It uses robotic telescopes to monitor asteroids and in 2008 one was named Rafael Nadal after the Mallorcan tennis player. Find out more at www.mallorcaplanetarium.com, (Spanish only).
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