Situated on the northeast coast of Mallorca, Pollença is made up of three areas of population, Pollença itself, Port de Pollença and Cala Sant Vicenç. It is one of the most beautiful areas on the Island comprising steep mountains and deep valleys, beautiful beaches and sea views, wonderful countryside and quaint cobbled streets with medieval architecture.
The region is rich in history, arts and culture whilst at the same time providing all the normal activities and amenities which are expected by today’s discerning tourist. This coupled with the diverse nature of the area’s flora and fauna attracts walkers, hikers and birdwatchers as well as those just wishing to relax in the sunshine or swim in crystal clear waters.
Located just a few miles inland from Port de Pollença, the small town of Pollença dates back to the 12th century when it was first settled by Moors from North Africa. The Moors built irrigation systems around the town and established a rich agricultural environment to support its inhabitants.
From local archaeological discoveries it is believed that the area was initially occupied as far back as 2000 BC.
In 123 BC the Romans arrived in Mallorca and settled in an area close to modern day Alcúdia. They named their settlement Pollentia from where, many hundreds of years later, Pollença got its name. Today, the ruins of the Pont Romà, a bridge built by the Romans to span the Torrent de Sant Jordi, can still be seen on the outskirts of Pollença.
The Roman Bridge across the Sant Jordi’s River
The Moorish residents of Pollença were driven out by the forces loyal to King James I of Aragon during his occupation of the Island in around 1230. King James became known as James the Conqueror (Jaume el Conqueridor in the Catalan language). He conquered Mallorca with a force of over 15,000 foot soldiers and 1,500 horsemen predominantly made up of Catalans from the Spanish mainland, although he was also assisted by loyal Aragon Knights also known as the infamous Knights Templar. The loyalty of the Knights was rewarded and following their rout of the enemy they were given the town of Pollença. King James I was King of Mallorca from 1231 until his death in 1276.
Under the ‘ownership’ of the Knights Templar Pollença prospered and there are still many examples of their occupation to be seen around the town today. Probably their largest contribution to the area was the building of Església de Nostra Senyora dels Àngels (the Church of Our Lady of the Angels) which is the focal point in the main square, Plaça Major. The influence of the Knights Templar, as an effective military and religious order, came to an end across Europe in the 14th century and as a consequence they left the Island. The church was rebuilt in the current baroque style in the 18th century.
Church of Our Lady of the Angels
In 1348 the Black Death reached Mallorca, eventually killing some 20% of the population. In an effort to seek Divine protection against the disease a shrine in honour of the Virgin Mary was built on top of the mountain closest to Pollença known as Puig de Maria. Some 15 years after completion the sanctuary was converted into a monastery and later still, walls and a lookout tower were built as a defence against marauding pirates. Puig de Maria forms Route 10 of the Tourist Information Office’s recommended hiking routes known as Biodiversity Routes, which all commence from within the Municipality of Pollença. The monastery, which commands spectacular views across the Bays of Pollença and Alcúdia, is open every day and admission is free. It is possible to stay overnight in one of a dozen guest rooms within the monastery.
El Puig de Maria
The 15th and 16th centuries heralded both an attempted Moorish invasion and numerous raids by pirates and buccaneers. The successful defence of north Mallorca by its local inhabitants is still celebrated today with the annual festival held on 2nd August where a re-enactment of the battle between Christians and Moors takes place through the streets of the town.
Sa Patrona – Battle between the Christians and the Moors
Another annual event popular with locals and tourists alike is the parade which takes place every Good Friday when the 365 steps of the Calvary Steps which lead from just northwest of Plaça Major to a small hermitage and chapel are climbed during a re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross.
Once the chapel is reached by the procession there follows a mock crucifixion following which the figure of Christ is paraded back though the town under torchlight and in silence, apart from the beating of a single drum. From the top of Calvary visitors can enjoy magnificent views across the north of the Island to the sea beyond or westwards towards the impressive Serra de Tramuntana Mountain Range.
Campanet town at the foot of the Serra de Tramuntana
January is a busy month for festivals in Pollença with three between the 16th and 20th of the month. The first, known as Foguerons de Sant Antoni (the bonfires of Saint Antonio) takes place both in Port de Pollença and Pollença old town when bonfires are constructed topped with figures of saints and lit during the hours of darkness. On the following morning after a ceremony when animals are blessed ‘The Pine Tree of Saint Antonio’ festival takes place when a locally felled and trimmed pine tree is collected by the town’s folk from a nearby estate and taken to the Plaça Vella in the centre of Pollença. Once there the tree, which has been cut to a length of between 20 to 24 metres in height, is greased and erected in the middle of the square. Youths from the town then battle to be the first to successfully climb to the top and retrieve a token reward. On the 20th January the festival of Sant Sebastià (Saint Sebastian) takes place throughout the town when there is a Procession of the Standard and the Ball des Cavallets. Two young male dancers ‘wearing’ models of small horses, similar to carousel horses, symbolise the battles between Christians and medieval Turkish horsemen, by parading through the town to the accompaniment of pipes and drums and the waving of a huge flag.
On the outskirts of the town the Oratori de Sant Jordi (Oratory of Saint George) was built by town’s people during the 16th century to act as a rallying point for local militias assembling to march to the coast and confront attacking pirates. A mass is held here every Sunday at 9.00am.
In the late 16th early 17th centuries Dominican Friars built the Santo Domingo Cloisters and Convent to the south of Plaça Major. Today the superb baroque style cloisters are not only home to Pollença’s Museum but also host the annual Classical Music Festival which normally takes place in July and August and features internationally acclaimed performers, orchestras and conductors.
Santo Domingo Cloisters
In the late 17th century Jesuit priests built the Church of Monti Sion located close to the foot of the Calvari Steps. The church and convent were abandoned when the Jesuits were expelled by King Carlos III during the process of disentailment in 1767. In the late 1800’s the Church of Monti Sion was reinstated and is still used today. The impressive Collegi de Sant Ignasi, also constructed by the Jesuits, is currently home to the Town Hall.
The act of disentailment can best be described as the seizing of the Church’s property by the Government in order to boost revenue following a period of financial loss and hardship as a consequence of war or other causes. This policy affected many religious orders and large amounts of Church land and property on the Island at that time. Another example of disentailment occurred at the wonderful Carthusian monastery at Valldemossa in the Serra de Tramuntana which, for a short period during1838 and 1839 was home to the Polish composer Frederick Chopin and his lover George Sand.
Valldemossa in the heart of the Serra de Tramuntana
Whilst much of Pollença dates back to medieval times and its Catalan culture coupled with other Christian influences, most of the town’s houses you see today were built in the 17th and 18th centuries. There are regular free walking tours around places of historical and architectural interest in the town run by the local Tourist Office. For more information visit the office at Calle Guillem Cifre de Colongya.