Sitting high on the hill above the village of S'Horta, near to Cala D'or, is Santueri Castle. The cliffs are around 400 metres above sea level and the summit of Santueri Hill was probably used as a place of worship during Talayotic times. It was definitely used in Roman times as the name comes from the word Santuarium, the Latin word for temple. The Romans also built a fort on the summit as did the Moors when they occupied the island in 903 A.D. By the time King Jaime the Conqueror invaded the island in 1229, it was a substantial structure and the garrison held out after Palma had been taken. It did not surrender until Jaime returned to Mallorca in 1231 and even then the Catalans needed a cunning plan to capture it.
The local villagers were encouraged to stage a night time fiesta in front of the castle gate and while the garrison watched the dancing and listened to the music below, the Catalan soldiers scaled the walls the walls on the opposite side of the castle. Once inside set they set upon the garrison and then reminded the villagers who their masters were. The Moors were decapitated and their heads were placed in pots and tossed from the castle walls. The sound of breaking pottery and the sight of severed heads rolling across the ground brought the fiesta to a gory halt.
Some of the garrison escaped the massacre but they were trapped in a cave by the Catalans. And there they waited by the entrance, expecting to starve the Moors into submission. Only there was a second entrance by the sea and they lived off the fish for some time, taunting their pursuers by throwing fish out of the entrance from time to time. It is not known if the Moors eventually escaped, surrendered or committed suicide.
Santueri Castle was given to King Jaime's great uncle, Nuño Sanç when Mallorca was divided up and he garrisoned it with troops who provided support for the villages along the eastern coast. When Sanç died childless over the winter of 1241/1242, his possessions were returned to the King. King Sanç (or Sancho) was crowned king of Mallorca in 1311 and five years later he ordered work to start on improving the castle' fortifications
Santueri Castle is an unusual fortification because the flat top of the hill and the steep cliffs meant that it only needed a few short sections of wall. The main section looks down over the entrance, where visitors had to pass through a gatehouse to reach the main gate. A number of towers were built in the wall and in 1489 the main tower, known as the Homage Tower, was rebuilt as a circular structure. Short sections of wall were also built across gullies at the northwest and northeast corners and along the east side. Three watchtowers, or miradors, were added so the garrison could keep watch for enemies.
During the Brotherhoods Uprising between 1521 and 1523 the rebels went to war with the barons over rising taxes. Many barons were massacred in Bellver Castle, near Palma while the barons from the southeast corner of Mallorca sought refuge in Santueri Castle. The rebel leader Joanot Colom, came from Felanitx while the town was controlled by the Brotherhoods. Check out the Brotherhoods Uprising webpage in the Events section to learn more.
By the turn of the 19th Century, the castle was not required by the State anymore and it was sold to a private owner in 1811. It had to be closed recently due to vandalism but at the time of writing, the government has plans to spend money on making the fortifications safe and accessible to the public.
The easiest way to find Santueri Castle is to drive south along the Ma-14 from Felanitx towards Santanyí; you will see the flat topped crag where the castle is away to your right. Turn left onto the road to s'Horta after four miles. Drive three miles east, passing though Es Carritxó, and just before s'Horta turn left, signposted for the castle. The narrow road makes a few twists and turns but the route is signposted. The last mile of the route is a walk up a dirt track which circles around the crag.
On the way to the top you will enjoy the wonderful views over the south east corner of Mallorca, including Sanctuary of Sant Salvador on the hill to the north. Check out the Sant Salvador webpage to learn more about this hilltop sanctuary.
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