If it wasn’t for the Talayotic settlement of Ses Païsses circa 1300 B. C., one might argue that the Moors were the first to inhabit what today is known as Artà. Mind you, there are some sources which relate an early settlement in the area to the Greeks, then possibly known as Arethos. Under the Moorish rule, the area was known as Yartân. Shortly after Mallorca was vanquished in 1229 by the Catalan conquerors, King Jaume I assigned eight Islamic alquerías in the district of Yartân to the Premonstratensian Abbey of Santa Maria de Bellpuig from Urgell, Lleida, on the mainland. In 1240, the monks started setting up the Oratori de Santa Maria de Bellpuig just outside of today’s Artà, first building a small church and a residence. The monastery was a small one as there were never more than 15 monks living in the hermitage. They were the feudal lords of the area, at that time. Today, the place is featured prominently in the Artà tourist brochures but, if you want to visit the Oratory you may find it ever so difficult to locate. I found the search quite challenging; I had to ask seven people to get directions, most of whom did not know where or what. Eventually, I found the Bellpuig and I am glad I did.
In 1425, the monastery was abandoned by the monks and ownership changed into private hands. Slowly, the residential, monastic outbuildings fell into a state of disrepair and what is left now is in a complete state of ruin. In 1998, the owners donated the property to the Consell de Mallorca and a project to restore and rebuild was begun but, never got very far. Today, there are fresh plans to rebuild the place and open it as a Centro de Interpretación del Repoblament whatever that may entail. As it is, in times of La Crisis and with the Consell’s coffers empty, a few hundred more years may well go by before the historic place gets reinstated.
The church itself is said to be almost completely restored. When I was there last week, the doors were closed, though, and I could not enter. I will have to go back some other time, now that I know how to find this bijou. I can thus only offer you an interior view as borrowed and copied from one of the tourist brochures.
The photos (top and centre) were taken near Artà, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: September 6, 2011. The time was 18:40:51 and 18:39:37, respectively. The photo (bottom) was taken from a brochure, Artà, Living Heritage, courtesy of Ajuntament d’Artà. The photographer is probably Agustí Torres Domenge, or else, Antoni Muñoz Navarro.