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montuïri, mallorca (majorca)

The sleepy village of Montuïri is perched on the slopes of a long narrow hill, just north of the main road from Palma to Manacor. Elegant houses decorated with family coats of arms line the main cobbled street which runs along the crest and the focal point is the huge church of Saint Bartholomew. However, the first people to live in the area occupied the slopes of a smaller hill to the north

montuïri, mallorca (majorca)Son Fornes is one of the largest Talayotic settlements on Mallorca. The site was occupied from 900 B.C. and around 200 years later the villagers built a wall around their houses and three (maybe four), large talayots towers. For around 300 years they worked together as a community until a fire destroyed the village. New houses were built, only this time they were scattered farms and the people grew cereals and looked after livestock; they also lived under a village chief.

There is a museum about the Son Fornes talayots on the north side of the village, check out www.sonfornes.mallorca. to find out more.

The Romans invaded Mallorca in 125 BC and they established a community on Montuïri hill; it is thought they may have named the settlement Montuarium. However, the settlement never took hold until the Moors arrived in 903 A.D. They called the area Muntay, and the village centre was resurrected complete with a mosque and a wall. As always the Moors dug wells and developed an irrigation system, planting cereal, vineyards, olive groves and fruit trees on the slopes. Many of the farms in the area still have Arabic names.

montuïri, mallorca (majorca)Following the conquest in 1229, the settlement was renamed Montuïri and it was given to Bernat de Santa Eugenia, the head of the Knights Templar on the island, (see Santa Eugenia for more information on this important man). He in turn gave it to Bernat de Sabadell and settlers came from Cataluña and Roussillon, each receiving over 1/3 of an acre for a house and the rights to farm 9 acres and have livestock on the common land. Montuïri had 500 people when James II granted it a market in 1300 but the plague struck in 1348, nearly wiping it out.

Life for the survivors was hard and as taxes went up many farmers lost their land and had to work as labourers for the richer owners. Many joined the Forana uprising against taxes in 1450 and rose again during the Brotherhood Uprising in 1521 (see the Brotherhoods webpage in the events section for more information). Imperial troops reached Mallorca in February 1522 and after taking Sa Pobla, defeated the Brotherhood army at the Battle of the Marsh in November; (check out the Sa Pobla webpage to discover more). Joanot Colom led his shattered army to Montuïri and occupied the village while the Imperial army gathered at Sineu to the north. It was the Brotherhood's last stand and while Colom was hung drawn and quartered, other leaders were executed, imprisoned or fined.

It was many years before Montuïri recovered and the villagers were forced to work as labourers on the baron's lands or Church lands. In 1836, the Convent of Santo Domingo had its lands seized under new laws made by Prime Minister Juan Mendizabel. They were given to the local barons, gaining support for Queen Isabel II and raising money to end a civil war known as the First Carlist War. It mattered little to the labourers; they were still working for a pittance, harvesting the wheat and carrying it to one of the many windmills built along the crest in the 17th Century.

St. Bartholomew's Church dominates the town square and while the original structure was erected following the conquest in 1229, a larger structure was built between 1515 and 1553. It again had to be enlarged only 100 years later and the belfry and the school latest additions. The simple building opposite the west door was the House of the Dead and the village cemetery used to be between the two until it closed at the beginning of the 19th Century. The modern town hall faces the church across the market place which was granted by Jaime II in 1300. It replaced the original 17th Century building.

montuïri, mallorca (majorca)The sculptured bust of Antonio Martorell i Miralles (1913-2009) is in front of the church, looking out over the square. He was born into a local peasant family and joined the Franciscans, looking to follow in the footsteps of Saint Francis of Assisi. Father Martorell's interest lay with religious music and after studying theory and piano at the Conservatory of Valencia, he went to Rome to research Gregorian chant.

Father Martorell stayed in Rome, first as organist and then as music director at the Basilica of Santa Susanna at the baths of Diocletian on Quirinal Hill for 38 years. The church was and still is the national Church of Rome of the United States. In 1964, he joined the Pontifical Commission of Sacred Music of the diocese of Rome and he was later appointed its director by Pope Paul VI. He was also founder and director of the music courses at the Pontifical Lateran University.

Father Martorell also founded Palma's Pastoral Music Weeks in 1972 and revived Mallorca's religious music heritage over the next ten years. He was declared an illustrious son of Montuïri in 1985 and four years later joined the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in San Sebastian. In 2002, Father Martorell was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of the Balearic Islands. He died in February 2009 in Palma, age 95, and the following year his statue was unveiled.

For more information on Montuïri check out the council webpage at (Spanish only).

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