• The hydrological landscape The hydrological landscape

    The utilization of water - a scarce, precious resource in the climatic and cultural context of the Mediterranean basin - has given rise in Mallorca and the Tramuntana area in particular to the construction of a complex network of traditional architecture related to water-harvesting techniques. The aim of these constructions is to collect and harvest underground or surface water and transport, distribute and store it. Throughout history important systems have been designed for the regulation and [...]

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BUILT LANDSCAPE

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Religious heritage

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When one is aware of the traditional religious dimension of Mallorcan society and the strong influence the Church has on it, it is easy to understand that the items of religious heritage preserved in the Tramuntana area are both numerous and diverse. The municipalities of the Tramuntana area feature many religious buildings, items and places of different architectural styles and chronologies that reflect the connection between the area and religious faith. Some examples are parish and rural churches, religious convents and monasteries, oratories and chapels, boundary crosses and via crucis shrines and crosses.

The shrine at Lluc, the main focus of pilgrimages in Mallorca, and the Miramar ensemble, founded by Ramon Llull, deserve a special mention due to their singular, exceptional nature.

The religious heritage of the Tramuntana area is basically associated with the Christian culture, which was introduced to the island in the year 1229, although some archaeological evidence has been found dating back to the Talayotic and Roman eras. Unfortunately no traces of the Paleo-Christian, Byzantine or Islamic eras have survived in the area.

In the very heart of the Tramuntana Mountains, more specifically at the Gorg Blau reservoir (Escorca), one can see some of the oldest religious remains on Mallorca: the Talayotic shrines of Almallutx. The two buildings have a square base and an apsidal wall. Inside one of them, some pieces of pottery with lids were found, containing numerous remains of sheep bones, and to a lesser extent pig, goat and oxen bones. Two burial sites corresponding to a man and a woman were also found. Much still remains to be learned about these shrines in terms of the religious practices and beliefs of the island´s first settlers, but a visit to them is highly recommended given the splendid scenery that surrounds them.

Churches in the towns and villages united the population that had settled in the region following the Christian conquest and the division of the Mallorcan land amongst the new settlers. Most of the parish churches in the towns and villages of the Tramuntana area are in the Baroque architectural style typical of the 17th and 18th centuries, albeit with later features that are the result of subsequent alterations carried out in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Throughout the Middle Ages and Modern Times many religious hermit communities settled in the Tramuntana area, until in the year 1567 the danger of attacks by pirates and bandits forced Bishop Diego de Arnedo to make an announcement calling on all these communities to return to towns and villages, which favoured the proliferation of convents and monasteries there. Places of worship and spirituality, convents and monasteries were also teaching centres, because we should point out that in many villages the primary school education of Mallorcan boys and girls depended on the work of priests and nuns until the late 19th or early 20th century. Tending to the sick and maintaining the parish church were other tasks habitually performed by them too.

Every village in the Tramuntana area usually has an oratory or shrine outside the urban perimeter where the parishioners go at certain times of year to ask for protection and support.

Boundary crosses and ´via crucis´ are also important religious features of the Tramuntana landscape. Boundary crosses – known locally as creus de terme – are located at the entrance to urban municipalities, and traditionally they marked the boundaries of the municipalities they separated. These items of heritage are frequent in the Tramuntana area – an inventory of nearly 30 crosses has been drawn up – and they are protected by legislation as Items of Cultural Interest. Certain villages and towns in the Tramuntana area still have chapels with façades that fulfil the function of part of a via crucis. One outstanding example is the via crucis running through the Puig district of Deià, comprised of twelve small framed quadrangular chapels, built using a kind of local stone – marès – and containing ceramic tiles showing the corresponding season.

The parish churches, convents, oratories and other religious monuments of the Tramuntana area contain an important, often little-known source of heritage in the form of furnishings, particularly altarpieces and carvings. The Museum of Lluc deserves a special mention. It was founded in the year 1952 and, in it, you can see the Treasures of the Virgin, a set of objects made of gold, silver and precious stones, as well as adornments that have been donated to the Virgin of Lluc over the centuries. There are also chalices, ciboria, monstrances, a Lignum Crucis dating back to the first half of the 16th century, velvet tunics, ex-votos and other offerings. Some of these churches still have their antique organs. Indeed the island of Mallorca is one of the places in Europe with the highest density of this kind of musical instrument.