As you drive down the long straight road from Palma, you can sense that Sineu was special in the past. The town is almost in the centre of Mallorca and you would hardly know you were on an island as you spot Santa Maria Church, at the heart of the town. On most days the town is very quiet, but every Wednesday dozens of market stalls fill the streets around the church. Hundreds of locals and tourists mingle amongst the stalls and you can buy everything from food and clothing to animals and antiques. You name it and you can probably find it in Sineu market.
The church dates back the 13th Century and although it has been rebuilt and restored over the years, it is well worth a look inside. The bell tower was added 300 years later and an enclosed bridge dedicated to Santa Barbara connects it to the church. The monument to St Mark, the town's patron saint, is next to the church and he is remembered during the festivals on 25 April and 15 August. The Spring Fair is on the first Sunday in May and it is one of the largest on the island, dating back to 1318 and the reign of King Sancho I.
At the beginning of the 14th Century King Jaime II chose Sineu as the new capital of Mallorca and the new straight road was built so he could get from Palma to his new palace quickly. Jaime II was crowned King of Mallorca following the death of his father, Jamie I 'the Conqueror' , in 1276. His older brother Pedro III 'the Great' had been crowned King of Aragon and Catalonia; and the dividing of their father's lands caused ill feeling between the siblings, especially when Jaime refused to pay taxes to his older brother. Problems were smoothed over three years later under the Treaty of Perpignan but it did place Jaime's territories under the control of Aragon. The period of understanding did not last long.
Pedro III came into conflict with Rome after his troops captured the island of Sicily in 1284 and Pope Martin IV allowed the French king, Philip III 'the Bold' to retaliate. Jaime took the opportunity to get one over his brother by joining the French invasion of Aragon's territories in what became known as the Aragonese Crusade. Peter eventually surrendered to Phillip's army but Jaime did not get what he wanted. The Kingdom of Aragon, and Mallorca with it, was given to Charles, son of the French King.
Peter's son, Alfonso III, immediately sought revenge following his father's death in 1285 and he quickly recaptured the Balearic Islands. However, Jaime would have to wait another ten years before he was once again King of Mallorca. The Treaty of Tarascon in 1291 was the first attempt to restore matters but the sudden death of Alfonso voided the agreement. The Treaty of Anagni in 1295returned the islands to Jaime as part of the diplomacy to restore peace in the Mediterranean.
King Jaime then took the decision to step out of Mediterranean politics and concentrated on his Kingdom, working to improve the economy, agriculture, defence and new industries. The Palace of Almudaina, the Cathedral of Santa María and Bellver Castle in Palma are just three of the important buildings started under his reign. Jaime also had a royal residence in Sineu, based in what had probably been the local Emir's palace years before, and it would have been a refreshing place to stay after the bustle and smell of the cramped streets of Palma's.
In 1306 Jaime allowed the people of Sineu to hold a market and they have done so for 700 years. Three years later he ordered work to start on turning his Sineu residence into a new palace. It was a busy time for him for because it was around this time that the Knights Templar were outlawed across Europe and while they were tortured and burnt as heretics across France, Jaime had taken a more liberal view to their activities. He opened criminal proceedings against them, seizing their land, properties and assets.
So was Jaime's plan for Sineu to have been the new capital Kingdom of Mallorca? We shall never know because the Kingdom only lasted another forty years because it came to an end with the death of Jaime's grandson Jaime III, who was known as 'the Rash' or 'the Unfortunate', (read about Jaime II on the Llucmajor webpage). The Palace of the Kings of Mallorca was never completed and while Sineu lapsed back into relative obscurity, the building fell into a state of ruin.
You can find a statue of Jaime II in the market square and the huge palace walls are just west of the main market square; look out for Calle de Palacio. After serving as a local institution for 200 years the building was handed over to Conceptionist Nuns in 1583 and converted into a convent; it still is now. There is another convent, Minims Convent, in Calle San Francesc, north of the market place. It was built in 1667 and reformed in 1722 but it was taken from the nuns in 1835 under Medizábel's confiscation of religious properties across Spain to raise money and support for Queen Isabel II. It has been home to the town council since 1877. To the south of the market square is Calle del Hospital and it leads to a 750 year old hospital, founded not long after the Conquest in 1229. It is a world away from the huge new Son Espases hospital which opened recently north of Palma.
Sineu is worth a visit, particularly on a market day when the streets are bustling with people and the church and palace are open. There is lot of useful information on the town website at www.ajsineu.net (English and German translations available) and there are map boards at key points around the town.
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