With the help of our lovely friends at Nakar Hotel, a stylish 57-room hideaway on Palma’s lively Avinguda Jaume III, we’ve compiled a list of five fascinating facts about the Balearic capital, a destination so rich in history and culture, we can’t help but feel bad (but not that bad) for spending all day at the beach.
1. Palma’s most prominent square, the Plaza Mayor, housed the official headquarters of the Spanish Inquisition. For hundreds of years, Christians, Muslims, and Jews lived together in Mallorca in relative harmony, but in the 14th and 15th centuries, the Church began to stir up resentment toward non-Christians and at the end of the 15th century it began the Inquisition, setting up the headquarters of the Court of Holy Office in what’s now Palma de Mallorca’s Plaza Mayor. Called the Casa Negra (Black House), it contained the Inquisitional prison and torture chambers until 1823, when the people of Palma sacked the building and burnt the documentation, abolishing the Inquisition for good. One of the wooden doors of the prison, with 365 nails forming geometric designs, was transferred to the Alfabia homestead, in Bunyola, in the foothills of the Tramuntana Range, and the prison bell now sounds the quarter-hours in the Town Hall of Palma.
2. The beautiful palm-filled ocean-side Parc de la Mar owes its existence to Joan Miró. The iconic Spanish painter, sculptor, and master of surrealism was part of the jury that chose the winning project that became the park, which opened in 1984. He also donated a mural to the project. Miró’s mother was from Mallorca and he moved to Palma with his Mallorcan wife, Pilar Juncosa, in 1956. In 1981, they established the Pilar and Joan Miró Foundation, which today comprises a museum exhibiting works donated by the artist, a library, a sculpture garden, Miró’s studio Sert, and the Finca Son Boter.
3. Palma’s most famous cathedral is built on the site of a former mosque. The Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma, more commonly referred to as La Seu, is a Catalan Gothic Roman Catholic cathedral built by the Crown of Aragon on the site of a Moorish-era mosque. Construction of the cathedral began in 1230 and continued for 400 years. Later, the great Catalan modernist architect Antoni Gaudí began work on La Seu, but he abandoned the project in 1914 after an argument with the contractor.
4. The spectacular Bellver Castle is the oldest circular castle in Europe. Built in the 14th century for King James II of Mallorca, the Gothic Castell de Bellver first served as the residence of the Kings of Mallorca and was then used as a military prison from the 18th to mid-20th century. It is thought to have been inspired by the upper complex of the Herodion, a 15 BCE hilltop palace in the West Bank. Now one of Mallorca’s biggest tourist attractions, the castle houses the History Museum.
5. Palma’s City Hall has a section devoted to the lazy. The long bench that is part of its facade was known as “sinofos,” a word derived from the Mallorcan expression, “si no fós per…,” which translates to “if it weren’t because of…,” i.e. the reason lazy people give for why, instead of working, they’re sitting there soaking up the sunlight.
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