Vilafranca de Bonany
There are fourteen archaeological sites southeast of the village, including the Pre-talayotic ruins at sa Moleta and the Talayot towers at Castellot Vell and Son Pou Vell. The Romans settled around here and it was in the Djijnaw Bitrah district when the Moors ruled Mallorca. Many of the farm names we can see today are Arabic based, including Alanzell, Albadallet and Albadallet.
This area was given to King Jaime I following the Conquest of Mallorca in 1229 and he in turn gave the farmhouses several Knights. Ramon Saclusa was given the Sant Martí estate, the estate where Vilafranca is now. The Knights Templar obtained Sant Martí in 1242 and it passed to the Knights Hospitallers when the Order was abolished in 1307. However, King Sanç of Mallorca believed the estate belonged to him and took it back following a court case; he gave it to his Treasurer, Nicholas of Sant Just. It was sold to Arnau Sureda in 1391 and they added the words Sant Martí to their family name.
The name Vilafranca dates from 1620 when King Phillip III founded a new village on the Sureda estate. Spain had just entered the Thirty Years War, a war between Catholic and Protestant countries in what is now Germany, and it needed money to pay its armies. Vilafranca literally means village free of taxes and it was one of many tax centres established across Spain. The Vilafranca de Sant Martí was changed to Vilafranca de Bonany to differentiate it from other villages of the same name. The name Bonany relates to the nearby hill.
A grid of streets was planned around a market square and work soon started on Santa Barbara Parish Church. The village flourished and the church had to be rebuilt between 1700 and 1738 to accommodate the growing congregation. The bell tower was added in the 1817 while the dome and large sculpture of Jesus was added in the 1940s. In front is a monument to three clergymen; Capuchin Friar, Brother Lluís de Vilafranca, the Priest, P. Jaume Rosselló, a Sacred Heart Missionary, and the Agustí Monk de la Mare de Déu del Carme.
The Nuns of Charity arrived in Vilafranca in 1897 and the Marquis of Vivot donated land for them to build a new chapel. Ca Ses Monges was built on Carrer Santa Barbara behind the church and a nursery school was built next door in 1917; it is still there.
Vilafranca de Bonany eventually gained its independence under the Cadiz treaty of 1813, a treaty declared while Spain was occupied by Napoleon's troops. A century later the Sureda family died out and after 500 years in the same family the lands around the village were sold to new owner, Juan March. He limited the size of plots farmers were allowed, making it difficult for them to make a living.
The villagers responded by trying to grow melons rather, a crop with a greater financial return than cereals. They also sold well and before long the village was supplying the entire island. Vilafranca now is famous for its annual melon festival which is held in early September. Other farmers began digging up the clay in their fields and made roof tiles. Juan March went onto start the Banca March and would eventually become the richest man in Spain. Check out Juan March's webpage in the Famous People section.
Check out the council website for more information, www.ajvilafrancadebonany.net (Spanish only).
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