• Maritime heritage Maritime heritage

    The north coast of the Tramuntana area, which is extremely difficult to navigate, contains numerous examples of maritime heritage related to surveillance of the coast, sailing and the exploitation of its relatively scarce fishing resources. They include coastal towers, lighthouses, dry docks and heritage linked to smuggling. Quarries for the extraction of marès (sandstone) complete the list of coastal heritage of interest value. Coastal watchtowers The geographical isolation that Mall [...]

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BUILT LANDSCAPE

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Rural estates (possessions)

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In Mallorca the name possessió (literally ´possession´) refers to a rural property or estate of agricultural characteristics, varying in size and including a small group of buildings called the cases de possession. This is the central core of an agricultural and livestock farm. The origin of the possessions can be traced back to the division of land amongst the nobles who took part in the Christian conquest of the island in the year 1229, a division that was made on the basis of existing Islamic farms and smallholdings. The owners of these estates are therefore usually genealogically related to the descendents of noble landowning families. The possessió functioned – and in certain cases, continues to function – like a production unit, around which a whole farming system developed, which included the participation of a large contingent of workers that could vary, depending on the size of the property, from ten to nearly one hundred labourers. On the pre-tourism island of Mallorca, prior to the first stages of the development of mass tourism in the 1950s, the whole region was organized, structured and divided into possessions, typically for agricultural and livestock farming both on the plain of Mallorca and in coastal areas and the mountains. This structure co-existed and still does co-exist with municipal administrative divisions.

Mallorca´s large estates are grouped together in the form of these agricultural and livestock units. In fact, the 10 largest possessions occupy 31,200 hectares, which represents 38.2% of the surface of the Tramuntana area. These large properties were authentic economic hubs, and some of them still are today. They co-existed in the region alongside smaller properties, concentrated mainly around towns and villages in the form of gardens, irrigated land, and olive groves.

In the architectural ensemble formed by the estate houses, two buildings in particular stand out: the casa dels senyors (landowners´ houses) and the casa dels amos (farm managers´ house). They are completed by a series of rooms and areas devoted to chores typical of the life of a farmer and shepherd. In some cases, due to difficulty of access to the estate´s houses or when the estate was of inferior category, the farm was left with no landowners´ house. The absence of this building would be compensated for either by another large house on the outskirts destined to be used only as a residence for the landowners or by typical inns or large town houses from where the estate was governed, in this case inhabited and farmed by farm workers only.

Normally estate houses have a square design with a large central working courtyard, called a clastra, around which all the outhouses stood, both for residential purposes and for animals and storage. These farm units were usually devoted not only to purely agricultural tasks but also to the processing of products, which is why nearly all of them had an oil press, a celler (wine cellar) and a mill for transforming agricultural produce. The most important agricultural building on Tramuntana estates is, without a shadow of a doubt, the oil mill or tafona, where the oil was produced that was for centuries the main Mallorcan mountain resource. Transported on the backs of donkeys, olives were brought down from the mountaintops and all terraced areas. Olive oil was one of the most sophisticated, expensive products that large estates produced. The oil mill or tafona is one of the most singular, characteristic features of large Tramuntana estates, and one of the symbols that most clearly define the importance of these houses in the local area.

Other highly-interesting examples of infrastructure present on Mallorcan estates and those in the mountains in particular are chapels, defensive towers (more typical of estates near the coast), charcoal stores (where the charcoal produced on the land was kept) and agricultural outbuildings such as livestock shelters, barns, pigsties, stables, chicken coops or pigeon lofts.

Some estates are still inhabited and in a semi-operational state, which helps them to be maintained in an acceptable state of conservation, but in general they are going through a period of considerable decline. There are also deserted or very dilapidated estates, whilst others have been restored to be converted into tourist facilities in the form of rural tourism establishments or as second homes for the well-off.