Two-hundred years after its foundation, the Hermitage of Betlem to the north of Artà finds itself at a crossroad. Only three friars of the order of Sant Pau i Sant Antoni remain at this miniature monastery and that is not enough to make their upkeep viable. The church elders have decided to move the three monks to the only other remaining active ermita in Mallorca, the one in Valldemossa, as soon as September.
Rumours are rife that the peaceful mountain refuge could be closed to the public. Others speculate that the hermitage might be made available for nuns, and the closed order of Teruel on the mainland is quoted as a possibility. I find that slightly far-fetched but nobody really knows. It would be a shame if that lovely setting could not be visited any longer by excursionists, hikers, tourists or the spiritually inclined. Equally, it would seem a great shame if that small property would be converted into yet another upmarket hostatgeria of the kind that one can already find in the erstwhile monasteries of Victòria or Felanitx and that no-one really wants.
One problem with the Ermita de Betlem seems to be that the property is owned by a private family with the use of the premises having been ceded to the church. If the monks now were to leave the hermitage and the church would give up their right of an usofruto, the property would revert back to the proprietors and a commercial use could be found that some might consider objectionable.
We’ll just have to wait and see and keep our fingers crossed.
If you can make it, try and pay a visit to the ermita before the end of September. You can drive from Artà or walk up from Colònia de Sant Pere. Once you are at Betlem, do not omit to visit the nearby shrine of the Cova de Na Bernarda, a small cave with a statue of Saint Bernadette, the virgin of Lourdes. Right next to the shrine is the Font de s’Ermita where the ermitaños take their water supply from for their refuge as well as for the monastery’s herb garden. You can help yourself to a few litres of this spring water as long as you bring your own bottles. The water is of a really excellent quality.
The photo was chosen from my archive. It was taken near Artà, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: June 24th, 2008. The time was 11:44:07.