In 123BC, following a two year campaign, a Roman Consul, Quintus Caecilius Metellus, conquered Mallorca with 3,000 Spanish and Roman colonists and over time established two cities, Pollentia near Alcúdia in the north and Palmeria, now Palma, in the south.
The ruins of the Roman city of Pollentia, just outside Alcúdia’s walls, are the most important archaeological site on Mallorca and reflect the significance of the city during the period of the Roman occupation.
In the 5th century the Romans were forced to leave Mallorca when the Island was plundered by the Vandals, who also destroyed many of the Roman buildings and infrastructure put in place by Metellus and his successors. The Vandals’ occupation of the Island didn’t last for long and there followed a period of relative peace during which time the Byzantines (Eastern Roman Empire) ruled this region of the Mediterranean. The Eastern Roman Empire survived its Western counterpart by almost 1,000 years and was perhaps the most powerful military force in the whole of Europe, finally coming to an end in the mid15th century at the hands of the Ottoman Empire.
In the 8th century a Moslem North African army, known as the Moors, entered the Iberian Peninsula by way of the Straits of Gibraltar and soon ruled the whole of Spain. Much later, following their successful occupation of the Spanish mainland, the Moorish invasion of Mallorca took place around the year 902. Upon their occupation of the Island native Mallorcans came under Moorish rule from mainland Spain. From this time forward therefore, Mallorca became part of Spain and was no longer considered as an independent country.
The Moors were driven out by the forces loyal to King James I of Aragon during his occupation of the Island in 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. King James I was King of Mallorca from 1231 until his death in 1276.
The walls of Alcúdia were built on the orders of King James II in the 14th century to protect the town from the ever constant threat from marauding pirates and Alcúdia became a major stronghold in the north of the Island. Much of the wall has been rebuilt, but the northern sections are the medieval originals and the Porta de Xara and Porta de Mallorca gates have been declared national monuments.
On the north side of the town near the Ponta Roja you will find the remains of an 18th century bridge from where it is possible to walk some 250 metres along the top of the wall, enjoying magnificent views of the surrounding countryside.
Free guided walking tours showing the rich history of Alcúdia take place every Wednesday and Friday during the tourist season and last approximately two hours. Details can be obtained from the Tourist Information Office in the town.
The rich history and culture of the region manifests itself in the quality of its museums and galleries. Whilst there are still archaeological remains of the Roman occupation within the old city of Pollentia, including a forum and a theatre plus historic mansions, there is also the Pollentia Monographic Museum located in Carrer Sant Jaume, Alcúdia. Housed in a 14th century building and former hospital, this museum is home to a collection of artefacts discovered during a number of archaeological excavations within the old Roman city.
The Church of Sant Jaume in Alcúdia occupies the site of an older church which had previously formed part of the town’s wall complete with watch tower. The new church, which was completed in 1893 is by far the tallest building in the town. Next to the church is the Parish Museum which houses examples of religious art, sculpture and other church related artefacts.
Museums in the wider area include Pollença Museum within the cloisters of the Dominican Friary, opposite the Jardins de Joan March, in the centre of the town and the Museu Martí Vicenç which houses fine examples of the local weaving craft, also located within Pollença.
Situated on the peninsula which separates the bays of Pollença and Alcúdia and a few kilometres from Alcúdia old town is the Museum Sa Bassa Blanca. Since 1993 this museum has been home to the Yannick Vu and Ben Jakober Foundation, one of the most important art foundations within the whole of Spain. The main building of the property was designed by Hassan Fathy. It is an example of work based upon the principle of Nubian mud brick construction.
There is a subterranean exhibition hall which contains an exhibition entitled ‘Children’ (Nins). This world famous collection comprises 136 portraits of children dating from between the 16th and the 19th centuries. More than 50 of them are permanently on view. The rest of the collection travels from one international museum to another. Diverse works by Ben Jakober and Yannick Vu, an important archive by the artist Domenico Gnoli and other contemporary art pieces are also on display. There is a large sculpture park and an English rose garden with more than 100 varieties of rose which can be visited during May and the first two weeks of June. Saturdays, throughout the season are designated as Family Days when entrance fees are discounted and museum guides interact with children and the exhibits. Opening hours and entrance costs are as follows:
Wednesday to Saturday:
Guided tours only with a previous appointment at 11 am and 3 pm Nins, Contemporary Art and Sokrates
Adults: 9€ one exhibition, 12€ two exhibitions, 15€ three exhibitions
Seniors: 7€ one exhibition, 9€ two exhibitions, 12€ three exhibitions
Children up to 10 years (accompanied by parents): Free
Only Nins, Rose garden and Sculpture Park
Free admission 9.30 to 12.30 h and 14.30 to 17.30 h
Thursday: 10-12 h:
Free visit by appointment to the Coffered Ceiling
All visits include the Sculpture Park and in the spring the Rose Garden
Closed: Sunday, Monday and Public Holidays
Facilities include: Bookshop, Coffee Shop and Access for Wheelchairs
For more information telephone: 971 54 69 15.