For many centuries Palma de Mallorca was fortified by a massive great wall, all the way around the city.
It would seem, that historians do not always agree as to which part of which wall in Palma dates from the Roman period (approx. 100 – 465 A. D.) and which one from the Muslim era (approx. 900 – 1230 AD). But sources seem to agree that the all-engulfing murallas (city walls) of Palma were in the main not built until 1562.
History tells us that after the Reconquista in 1229 under Jaume I, the island of Mallorca went through a period of relative peace for some 300 years. But with advanced weaponry of arms and in particular cannons, some mighty cities were taken by enemies, such as Constantinople in 1453, or Rhodes in 1522. These two defeats, amongst others, got the city’s elders thinking about a defensive city wall that could withstand cannon fire from any attacking enemy.
The plan (above) dates from 1596 and is credited to Antoni Verger, showing the extensive city fortifications of Palma. The construction seems to have done the trick, because no major attacks were reported during the ensuing couple of centuries. Yes, there were pirate attacks on Mallorca but they were directed at places like Sóller (1550), Pollença (1561) and Santanyí (repeatedly between the 14th and 17th century), but not at Palma.
The painting (above) is undated but seems to be from around 1644. The artist is unknown. The artwork shows the great wall of Palma de Mallorca during the 17th century in all its splendour. The painting was hanging for over 300 years on the walls of the Salón de Plenos in the Ajuntament de Palma, before it was moved to be exhibited at the Castel de Bellver, where you can see it today.
The drawing (above) dates from 1726 and shows the walls of Palma in their final shape and form. This amazingly detailed plan is attributed to Gerónimo Cánobes, an engineer who was working for the king of the time. In this drawing one can see clearly the division of Ciudad into its two parts: la vila d’amunt (the upper part) and la vila d’avall (the lower part), still recognizable today.
During the early years of the 19th century, a strong fortification was no longer deemed necessary. Most parts of the great wall of Palma were demolished, making room for what we now know as the Avenidas. Silly people they were, these town planners, if you ask me. Anyway, some very attractive parts of the various city walls can still be seen today as if forgotten leftovers, mainly below La Seu (the cathedral), to the western part of Passeig Sagrera (Baluard de Sant Pere), behind the Parc de la Mar (Baluard del Príncep) and towards the eastern parts of Parc de la Mar.
In the old days, the Mediterranean Sea came right up to these walls and virtually up to the feet of the cathedral. That must have been an amazing impression, don’t you think?
The photo was taken in Palma de Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: April 1st, 2009. The time was 13:35:34. The 1644 painting as well as the two plans were taken from the Alta Mar website. Muchas gracias, Fabian.