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Petra

petra, mallorca (majorca)People have lived in the Petra area since per-historic times and there are two Talayotic remains, one a square tower and the other a walled settlement, on the Son Homer estate to the west of the village. The Romans also settled here and quarried the stone for villas and buildings across the island; the name Petra is derived from the Latin word for stone.

When the Moors conquered Mallorca in 902 A.D., they divided the island into twelve districts, one of which was Djijnaw Bitrah, with Bitrah being a derivative of Petra. Following the conquest in 1229, King Jaime the Conqueror claimed the area and divided it between several knights; Burgues, Sant Joan, Sant Martí, Desbach and Sureda.

petra, mallorca (majorca)The first church was built at the north side of the village in 1248 and in 1300 Petra was given the rights to hold a market by King Jaime II. However, plagues, droughts and poor harvests meant that life was hard for the people of Petra and the village developed slowly. The local saying that "the Devil surrendered in Petra" symbolizes how hard people had to work to survive.

petra, mallorca (majorca)Improvements in agricultural techniques in the 16th and 17th Centuries meant that harvests improved and Petra became more prosperous. Donations to the Church meant that the tiny Church of Saint Peter could be knocked down in 1581 and work began on a much grander structure capable of accommodating the growing congregation; it took around 200 years to complete. Saint Bernard Monastery's was built in the centre of the village while the Convent of Sant Francesc was the final religious building opened on Carrer Font in 1888.

Petra is famous for being Father Junípero Serra's hometown. He was born in 1713 in a small house on the street which now bears his name, in the oldest part of town. He was baptised in Saint Peter's Church and went to the school in Saint Bernard Monastery's. The street between the two is lined with tiled depictions of the missions which Serra established. Check out the Father Junípero Serra webpage in the Famous People section to learn more about his life.

Serra's house was given to the Californian city of San Francisco, one of the cities he established and it was initially managed by the Society of California Pioneers. Today it is managed by the 'Societat d'Amics del Pare Serra', or the 'Society of Friends of Father Serra'.

Next door is the Father Junípero Serra Museum (Centre of Juniperian Studies) which was opened by the Society of Friends in 1959. The museum inside is devoted to Serra's life and has many documents and items relating to his missionary work. You need to go to the nearby house indicated on the instruction panel by the entrance gate to get access.

petra, mallorca (majorca)Constitucion Plaza was renamed Father Junípero Serra Plaza in 1892. Father Francesc Torrens promoted erecting a memorial to the village's illustrious son and in 1913 a statue by Guillem Galmés was unveiled. Father Torrens' own bust stands in front of the church. Petra comes alive on the third Sunday of September, when the village turns out to pay homage to Father Serra.

To the southwest of Petra is Bonany Hill. It was originally called Burguès Hill after the landowners but when a figure of the Virgin Mary was found on its slopes, it was renamed Maria Hill. Legend has it that the statue was hidden by the island's early Christians when the Moors took over Mallorca. Every Easter the villagers walked to the summit to pray to the statue, hoping for a good harvest. After several years of drought at the beginning of the 17th century, the annual pilgrimage was rewarded with heavy rain and a bumper crop in 1609. It became known as the 'Good Year' or 'Bon Any' and the name stuck; Bonany Hill.

Father Miquel Vicens used donations to build the chapel at the summit and pilgrims began flocking to it to pray to the statue. Father Junípero Serra gave his last sermon in the chapel before leaving Mallorca to set up missions in Mexico and California. The townspeople still walk up the hill to pray every Easter Tuesday but you can drive to the top to enjoy the spectacular views.


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