The Palace of Rey Sancho

The Palau del Rei Sanç (palace of Rey Sancho) forms the original part of La Cartoixa (Carthusian monastery) in Valldemossa, a pueblo in the Tramuntana mountain range with an altitude of over 400 metres. King Jaume II de Mallorca commissioned the building of the palace for his third son. The building was finished in 1310, allowing the King’s son, who suffered from asthma, to enjoy his favourite pastime here, hunting with falcons. Rei Sanç I el Pacífico became the king of Mallorca in 1311 and reigned until 1324. He died that year aged 48, not leaving any descendants.

Somehow, King Martín el Humano of the house of Aragon inherited these and other Mallorcan possessions from his elder brother. In 1399, he was petitioned to cede the royal possessions in Valldemossa to the Carthusian monks, and complied with that request. The monks of the order of Sant Bruno founded the monastery, extended the palace building complex and built the church. The monks of Sant Bruno were bound by an oath of silence that they only could break once a week for thirty minutes, and only in the monastery’s library. They lived in the monastery until 1835, when they were secularised and dispossessed of this monastery, a fate that befell many other monasteries in Spain as well at that time. The Spanish state took on the administration of this monastery, renting out the monastic cells to visitors, such as Frederick Chopin and George Sand during the winter of 1838/39. Later, the monastery site was sold in nine different parts to private owners and the church was passed on to the Bisbat de Mallorca. This ownership structure is still in force today.

Two architectural elements in the Palau del Rei Sanç appear to date from the Moorish period (902-1229), the dining room floor tiles (see photo) and a techo mudéjar, a wooden ceiling with rather beautiful carvings.

The photo was taken in Valldemossa, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: November 26th, 2009. The time was 11:47:42.

The Palace of Rey Sancho

The Massive Eaves of Cort

The city hall of Palma de Mallorca is known by the name of Cort. The Ajuntament de Palma has its seat in an impressive building dating from the 17th century. Next time you are in the area, have a look up and enjoy the splendid wooden eaves, a work by the sculptor Gabriel Torres. The eaves’ sculpted statues are probably inspired by the Atlantean figures made by Juan de Salas during the 16th century which can be found in the pulpit of La Seu (the Cathedral).

Spectacular. You will not find more impressive eaves anywhere in Palma, or in Mallorca for that matter.

Don’t be afraid to enter the building; you are allowed to visit. The spacious entrance hall leads to an Imperial staircase leading to the main floor. You can’t go up there, but you can have a look at the Gothic doorway that remains from the previous building of the seat of the government of the city, from the 13th century. Also on the groundfloor, there is a public library where you can read the newspapers, if that is what you would like to do.

The photo was taken in Palma de Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: November 4th, 2009. The time was 13:46:50.

The Massive Eaves of Cort

Local Taxes

November 30th is the deadline for paying your local taxes here in Mallorca. If you own property here or a car, the annual impuestos become due now and your municipal town hall will have sent you a bill, along with the charges for rubbish collection and other municipal services. If you don’t make the deadline there is an extended deadline until December 31st but you will be billed a surcharge of 5 or 10 %. If you pay later than that there will be a surcharge of 20 %, at least here in Felanitx where I live. Both taxes are due whether you actually reside here or not.

There are national taxes as well, such as income tax and wealth tax, but they are not due until May or June of next year. Both taxes are due if you own property in Spain and again, are due whether you reside in Spain or not.

The municipal property tax/council tax is set by the ayuntamiento (municipal authorities) and usually ranges between 0.5 % and 1 %, varying from pueblo to pueblo. Of course you can pay your dues by bank transfer but many Mallorcans prefer to visit their local Agencia Tributária and settle their bills in cash. Old habits die hard. When I went to the tax office yesterday in Felanitx, there must have been a queue of some 50 or 60 people. I was the only extranjero there, in my opinion, except for one Moroccan (or Arab) man who arrived an hour after I had. I reckon that many foreigners shy away from turning up in person at the tax office or the town hall for reasons to do with the language barrier. It is really a great shame that so many foreigners are so little willing to participate in matters of daily life, such as taxes or other administrative affairs, here in Mallorca.

The photo was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: November 27th, 2009. The time was 12:44:01.

Local Taxes

Tordos and Thrushes

Tordos (lat. Turdus philomelos, Song Thrushes) are migratory birds which come to our Mallorcan shores during the month of October. This year, the hunting season for these birds started a fortnight later than usual, on November 1st, and is now in full swing. Hunting the highly demanded thrushes is allowed with either rifle, bow and arrow or with a net, strung between two posts. Twenty tordo birds are allowed to be caught per day per person during the hunting season. The current season will finish at the end of January, 2010.

In the Illes Balears, a total of 26,000 hunting licenses are issued or renewed every year.

I found a rather interesting video on YouTube showing how tords (tordos) were caught by net somewhere near Valldemossa in 1997.

The photo (top) was taken in Caimari, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: November 22nd, 2009. The time was 12:20:56. The photo (bottom) was borrowed from the Internet. My thanks go to Diariodemallorca.es and the photographer, J. Mora. The video was taken from the Internet, courtesy of YouTube and Tenassa.

Tordos and Thrushes

Tempora Tempore Tempera

The Convento de Santa Teresa de Jesús is one of the 43 monasteries that once existed in Palma de Mallorca. Nowadays, only six or seven of them are still operating as a monastic institution.

Anyway, the Esglèsia de Santa Teresa in Palma’s Rambla had recently a bit of restauration work done to its exterior. In the course of repair work and a thorough clean up, a rather large sundial was discovered on the church façade that was unknown to the authorities. The monochromatic hour pattern had faded away over the ages and the old style had vanished. Only the wet from the rain made the sundial discernable from close up. Ultraviolet lamps were used during the restoration process and the gnomon was replaced. Now this rehabilitated sundial gives us the time of day once again and in replenished style.

The church of Santa Teresa was built in 1634 and it is assumed that the original sundial dates from the same period, or perhaps a little later when the convent was constructed. An astonishing 945 sundials are known in Mallorca, with about 80 of them in the Palma area, if you want to know, and some of them are priceless. The oldest known sundial in Mallorca dates from 1614 and is located in Son Puig.

There is a Google map on the web with 24 positions of sundials in Palma. Not quite accurate but interesting nevertheless.

The photo (top) was taken in Palma de Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: November 24th, 2009. The time was 13:17:57. The photo (bottom) was borrowed from the Internet. Thanks are due to arcapatrimoni.blogspot.com.

Moltes gràcies.

Tempora Tempore Tempera

Gírgolas, Picornells, Bolets and Setas

The mushroom period is upon us in a big way this year. Everywhere in Mallorca’s markets we find a plentitude of Girgolas, Llenguas de Bous, Peus Blaus, Esclatassangs, Picornells, Bolets, Setas de Avila and whatnots. It is a sheer pleasure to see such a variety and to have so much choice, for me anyway. Right now, the Mallorcan woods, mountains and garrigas allows us to forage for food, as long as one is into mushrooms. I have recommended Els Bolets de les Balears guidebook (in Catalan only) before. It comes in two volumes (at 39 € and 42 € each) and is a very comprehensive guide.

The mountain village of Mancor de la Vall celebrates the 7th Fira de l’Esclata-sang i de la Muntanya next Sunday (November 29th). If you are a mushroom lover, do not miss this occasion. The ajmancordelavall.net website offers a pdf download with the full programme details, if you should be so inclined.

The photo was taken in Caimari, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: November 22nd, 2009. The time was 13:36:42.

Gírgolas, Picornells, Bolets and Setas

Slaying The Pig

Mallorca’s Moroccan population is busy preparing for Eid al-Adha (the Festival of Sacrifice, November 29th) when corderos will be slaughtered in Felanitx and elsewhere on the island. I think I might be invited by one of our neighbours.

Mallorcan families celebrate matanzas during this time of year, when pigs are sacrificed albeit not for religious reasons. An age old farming tradition is upheld here in the countryside. November/December is the time of the year when pigs are slaughtered to provide food for most of the year: sobrassadas, butifarrons, lomo and embutidos. Of course, pigs are a no-no for Muslims, but cerdos provided staple food for many of our Mallorcan neighbours during centuries, or so I believe. Matanzas are a laborious yet joyous event and a great Mallorcan tradition.

I have recently heard that having a matanza at home involving the killing of a pig does not conform to rules and regulations any longer and is deemed alegal. I cannot believe that to be true. Dozens of families that I know in our area had their matanzas already, over the last few weeks, or have them planned for the next few weeks. Perhaps it is a matter of authorities turning a blind eye as everybody senses that this is a tradition that may not live for much longer due to the changes that affect rural Spain and contemporary Mallorca. We’ll see.

A splendid book has just been published that celebrates the matanza del cerdo in Mallorca, called Porcs – Mirades tallades. Gori Vicens (Palma, 1968) is the artist behind the powerful photographs in this large format book, whilst artist Albert Pinya (Palma, 1985) offers some bucolic illustrations. The impressive visuals are accompanied by a passionate and vibrant text from the pen of Andreu Manresa (Felanitx, 1955), an El País journalist and a food lover. He lives just round the corner from our house here in Felanitx.

The book is published by Institut d’Estudis Baleàrics and retails at 45 €; it would make for a perfect gift for Christmas or for any other occasion if you want to show that you care for Mallorca and its traditions.

The top two photos were taken by Cati B. near Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: November 21st, 2009. The time was 08:36:47 and 11:12:03, respectively. The bottom two photos were taken from the Internet, courtesy of dbalears.cat. Copyright for these two photos is held by Gori Vicens and the Institut d’Estudis Baleàrics.

Moltes gràcies.

Slaying The Pig