The Conquistador

December 31st is Jaume I’s big day, or so we are told.

Mallorca had been governed by Moorish Walís since the year 902. Already in 1205, King Pedro II of Aragón (the Catholic King) had been planning to recapture the island and subsequently conquer the territory. He had asked Pope Innocent III for support for such a crusade but, in vain.

In December of 1228, Jaume I, the son of Pedro II and now the King of Aragón, assembled the Cortes (nobility, clergy and merchants) of Barcelona to convince them to join him in a crusade against Abu Yahya, the Walí of Mayurka (Mallorca) and the governor of the Taifa of the Baleares, in order to recapture the largest Balearic island for his crown. Young Jaume was but 21 years old at that time. The assembly approved of the young King’s plans and agreed to join him in his campaign and in its financing against the promise of a share in the booty. On September 5th, 1229, sails were set from Salou and Tarragona with a fleet of 150 vessels, including 55 large ships. The Christian fleet landed on the morning of September 10th near Santa Ponça. The Moors resisted initially but, after a few days of bloodshed withdrew to the island capital. A peaceful capitulation and withdrawal of the Muslims was under negotiation but, ultimately rejected. Madina Mayurka (Palma) was finally captured for good on December 31st, 1229.

Other Moorish parts of the island, especially near Artà, Capdepera and Felanitx as well as parts of the Serra de Tramuntana held out for up to two years longer. Finally, in 1232 all Moorish strongholds were completely defeated, across the island.

Jaume I left the island in October, 1230. The victorious Conquerador (conqueror in Catalan) remained Rey de Aragón, Mallorca y Valencia, as well as Conde de Barcelona and Señor de Montpellier until his death in 1276. There was trouble with his succession amongst his sons and heirs but, that will have to wait for another blog entry, some other time.

As an aside, December 31st at that time was not the last day of the year. The Julian calendar used at the time stipulated March 25th as the first day of the year and March 24th as the last. I took that information from Historia de las Islas Baleares (volume 6, 2006).

The photo was taken in Palma de Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: December 29th, 2010. The time was 13:29:52.

The Conquistador

The l’Estendard Celebrations

Most everybody is probably way too busy with preparations for a decent New Year Eve’s dinner, or party, or whatever to take notice of a quaint little festivity going on in Palma tonight and tomorrow morning: the Festa de l’Estendard. Perhaps everybody is still trying to buy 12 grapes for each and every member of the family for the moment when the clock changes from the old year to the new. You may have left it too late, I’d say.

The last day of the year is celebrated in Mallorca as being the day when the last Moorish Valí (governor) in Mallorca signed an agreement of capitulation with the conqueror, King Jaume I of Aragon and handed over the keys to the island capital. It all happened in the year 1229 as I am sure you will know full well. Celebrations started in Palma yesterday and will continue tonight with a concert by the Banda Municipal de Música de Palma at 19h00 in Plaça d’Espanya, followed by a church service at 19h30 and an homage to the Conquistador at 20h00 (see programme, bottom). The main day and the finest of the celebrations will happen tomorrow, though, and that would be an event that I do recommend to you if you have not witnessed it before. The Estendard Reial de la Conquesta de Mallorca (the ceremonial banner), hoisted on a flagpole of a height of 6 m, as well as the Cimera del Rei Marti (the monarch’s Chimera helmet, see photo below) will be exhibited in Plaça Cort at 10h15 tomorrow morning, before Palma’s Mayoress, the President of the Consell de Mallorca, the President of the Govern Balear and whoever else have you, rush off to a missa solemne in La Seu (Cathedral). What you don’t want to miss is the celebration as they come out of the Cathedral at 11h30 and make their way in a procession back to the Cort (town hall) in full regal authority and pomp with white horses galore, with brass band and all the opulence of yesteryear.

At 12h00 sharp, the Colcada will be held, a lyrical appraisal of the successful conquest, 781 years ago tomorrow, with the participation of perhaps two dozen children, all al·lots (pupils) of the l’Escola de Música i Danses de Mallorca. Quite a picturesque affair, I would say, believe me. It will all be over in 15 minutes, when Aina Calvo, the Batlessa (mayoress), will find words of praise for herself to pass review of the year just gone. She’ll make the most of it because it would seem that after the next elections we will in all likelihood have a new Batle (mayor) in Palma, sad as it may be. Elections will be held in Palma in May, 2011. That’s only just round the corner.

See if you can make it. It will be worth your while. And bring the young ones, they will like the horses.

The photos were taken in Palma de Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The dates: December 31st, 2009, and December 29th, 2010. The time was 12:10:35 and 13:05:00, respectively.

The l’Estendard Celebrations

The New Felanitx Music School

The old municipal Escorxador (slaughterhouse) of the Ciutat de Felanitx was originally built in 1919 as the town’s first Fàbrica d’Electricitat (electricity plant). The building has been converted over the last three years into the Escola de Música i Dansa Pare Aulí and was inaugurated as such a few weeks ago. In excess of 2,115,000 € have been spent, mainly from the coffers of the Govern Balear and its Conselleria d’Educació i Cultura department. I think that is a hell of a lot of money, should you ask (352,000,000 of the old Pesetas). Mind you, not only was the old slaughterhouse restored for that pricey sum but, two newly built wings were constructed as well. The municipal Banda de Música de Felanitx will have their new base in the music school’s premises as well.

Felanitx has a longstanding heritage of music. Musical tradition, musical activity and musical teaching have been more prominent here than in most other municipalities of this very island. The old Felanitx music school was not adequate for its 120 pupils any longer and deemed insufficient. The new facility was built for a capacity of 280 pupils. 16 music teachers are presently looking after the 118 pupils currently enrolled, training them in the faculties of harmony, melody, rhythm and singing. Each and every child wanting to learn an instrument also has to take lessons in music harmonies and join the school’s choir. No gain without pain, or so it seems.

When our three children were younger they were pupils of the old Escola de Música i Dansa Pare Aulí for a number of years and I think it did them well. I am proud of their enthusiasm for music.

The photo was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: December 23rd, 2010. The time was 12:46:21.

The New Felanitx Music School

A Right Royal Feast

No one knows for sure how many Mallorcan families had an authentic Rostit Reial roast for their Christmas dinner this year, if any, but, I am assured that the royally stuffed turkey did exist not all that many years ago (see Andreu Manresa’s Crónica de Baleares, El País, December 26th, 2010). You may know the Rostit Reial (Asado Real in Castellano) by the term of Turducken, a dish not dissimilar to the Yorkshire Christmas Pie, an English dish served in the 18th century, consisting of five different birds either layered or nested, and baked in a standing crust.

In Mallorca, the traditional Rostit Reial is a recipe that involves stuffing a turkey with a guinea fowl, which is stuffed with a partridge, which in turn is stuffed with a tordo (thrush). Can’t be done, you say? Well, it can. The trick is that the birds have to be deboned to fit one into another. Also, according to señor Manresa, the Baroque style feast will need to be slow-cooked at low temperatures for at least twelve hours. I must confess that I have never eaten one of those delights but, I would like to, one day.

Apparently, Alexandre Balthazar Laurent Grimod de la Reynière (1758-1837) published a similar recipe in his L’Almanach des Gourmands on an even more elaborate level, including the consecutive stuffing in descending order of bustard, turkey, goose, pheasant, chicken, duck, guinea fowl, teal, woodcock, partridge, plover, lapwing, quail, thrush, lark, ortolan bunting, garden warbler, along with olives, anchovies and capers. What a banquet.

You may well think that I am having you on. After all, it is the Día de los Santos Inocentes today, here in Spain, a day when it is customary to send friends and readers up the garden path, similar to our April Fool’s Day practice. Well, I am not sending you nowhere. The information given above is true and correct on any day of the year. Trust me.

The photo (top) was taken near Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: December 18th, 2010. The time was 13:09:32. The photo (bottom) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of thymeforfood.wordpress.com and Matt Bolus. Thank you very much.

A Right Royal Feast

A Sacred Fruit

There is nothing quite like the unique taste and texture of fresh figs. They are lusciously sweet with a texture that combines the chewiness of their flesh, the smoothness of their skin, and the crunchiness of their seeds. In December, however, there are no fresh figs available but, a plentitude of dried figs are on sale in the weekly Mallorcan markets.

Figs were considered a sacred fruit by the Romans. But long before the Roman times, the fig tree (Ficus carica), which is a member of the Mulberry family, was cultivated in the Middle East and in particular, Egypt, possibly as long ago as 11,000 years. The plant was later introduced to ancient Crete and later, to ancient Greece before it began to spread throughout the Mediterranean area. It may well have been the Romans who brought the tree and the fruit to Mallorca. Soon enough, Mallorcan farmers became experts in drying the delicious fruit thus making it last throughout the year. Twigs of fennel were introduced and are still used today, to add some herbal aroma to the sweet and succulent fruit. Figs are inherently high in natural simple sugars and minerals. They are fairly rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and manganese and thus, offer substantial health benefits.

Dried figs are sold either open, in boxes (photo top), as pan de higo (fig cakes, see photo below), preserved in Licor de Anis or in Brandy. They are simply a delight in any form or incarnation. Try some. Now is the best time.

The photos were taken in Mancor de la Vall, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: November 28th, 2010. The time was 13:32:24 and 13:32:30, repectively.

A Sacred Fruit

The Miró Foundation in Palma

Twenty-seven years ago, in 1983, I happened to be spending Christmas in Mallorca when I was shocked to read in the local papers that Joan Miró i Ferrà had died the day before, on December 25th, 1983, aged 90. Even though Miró was born in Montroig, southwest of Barcelona in the province of Tarragona, he had links to Mallorca. His mother’s family had come from Sóller, a place that he often visited in his childhood.

The artist settled in Palma de Mallorca permanently in 1956 and worked here for the remaining 27 years of his life. In 1981, Joan Miró and his wife Pilar Juncosa donated the artist’s studios, together with all the art works, objects, and documents they contained, to the Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró a Mallorca. A new museum building was designed and built for the Miró foundation in Palma and inaugurated in December, 1992. The Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró a Mallorca is a municipal body, administered by the town hall of Palma whose political intentions sometimes seem to be in conflict with the artist’s heirs, depending on the political party in power. Just before this Christmas, ten major works (sculptures and paintings) were withdrawn from the foundation where they had been on loan from the Miró family’s holdings. One of the withdrawn works (Toile brûlée II) will travel to London soon, where it will be on display in a major retrospective exhibition of work by Joan Miró at the Tate Modern from April 2011. Already in 2007, the Miró family had decided to donate the artist’s entire library to the Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona with some 1,750 books, and not to the foundation in Palma.

The Fundació Joan Miró was set up in Barcelona in 1975. The foundation there has since then been declared a museum of national importance and is today the place with the largest accumulation of works by the artist anywhere, with 14,000 obras housed, including 8,000 drawings, 200 paintings, 180 sculptures plus a number of textiles, ceramics and graphic prints.

Although the Miró foundation and museum in Palma cannot compete with the one in Barcelona, a visit is still to be recommended. The work on display in Palma is captivating but, even more importantly, the artist’s studio (photo top) is open for visits, as is Son Boter, Miró’s large country house where some rooms are painted with large and original charcoal wall drawings executed by the man himself, some thirty or forty years ago (photo bottom).

Post Script: Later today, I read that another great artist had died yesterday: Jim Bird (Bloxwich, UK, 1937). I believe the two artists had met during their lifetimes on a number of occasions. One cannot compare their body of work but, they each were special in their own particular ways.

The photos were taken in Palma de Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: September 16th, 2010. The time was 17:25:25 and 17:31:21, respectively.

The Miró Foundation in Palma

Crickets’ Greetings

In the absence of any reindeer here in Mallorca, a photo of an Oecanthinae (tree cricket) will have to do for today. The teeny green fellow is bringer of festive greetings to you all with much appreciation and many thanks for your loyal company and fidelity here on this Mallorca Daily Photo Blog.

Merry Christmas. Bon Nadal. Feliz Navidad.

Molts d’anys.

The photo was taken near Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: December 18th, 2010. The time was 12:50:18.

Crickets’ Greetings