Saturday, February 01, 2014

The Contumacious Vassal Of Mallorca

If you've got twenty euros to spare and twenty (and a half) hours needing filling, you might wish to spend this money and time attending nine sessions which comprise a course on Pollensa's history. It all sounds very interesting but there is one slight drawback; if you can't speak the native, then you're not going to get very far.

They've been organising a history course in Pollensa since 1994. It is said, with pride, that there have thus far been 138 conference sessions, 39 guided tours, 103 speakers and an annual average of 80 "students". This year's course is all about everyday life of everyday Pollensa folk from the time of the Catalan conquest to the present day. As such therefore, participants will be able to find out what life was like in the thirteenth century once Jaume I had done his conquering and when Ramon Llull became the big noise in Mallorcan circles. The first session, on 7 February, will be about the private lives of the "pollencins" in mediaeval times. A further one, on 21 February, will deal with issues confronting those mediaeval Pollensa people.

Those issues weren't, if truth be known, all that wonderful, what with the Black Death, poor harvests and the odd siege, such as that of 1343 when troops loyal to the Mallorcan king, Jaume III, were holed up in the hillside fort of the Castell del Rei, the forces of Pere IV of Aragon having invaded Mallorca on account of Jaume III having been declared by Pere to have been a contumacious vassal (he was a disobedient upstart in other words).

Pollensa's history, that before Jaume I, is rather more obscure than many other Mallorcan towns, certainly by comparison with its neighbours Alcúdia and Sa Pobla, about which a great deal more is known; the former especially. It is also a history which contains a probable error. It is only a hypothesis that when people of Pollentia (Alcúdia) witnessed the Vandals vandalising the Roman-built town in the early fifth century, they upped sticks and headed for the lower part of the hill that is now the Calvari steps in Pollensa and created a sort of Pollentia New Town. It's a hypothesis which doesn't have any real evidence to back it up but has been one made on the basis of a second error: that Pollentia was all but abandoned when those Germanic Vandals came roaring and rampaging into town.

One of the leading archaeological experts on Pollentia, Dr. Bartomeu Vallori of Barcelona University, has indicated that a new wall was built at some stage in the fifth century after the Vandals had pitched up. It was almost certainly of Byzantine style. This is important for two reasons. One is that it indicates that habitation of Pollentia was probably continuous and so therefore not broken by the barbarian incursion, the second is that Byzantine influence was earlier than is normally thought to have been the case.

Back over in Pollensa, what is known is that farms there formed part of a district that the Muslim occupiers from the tenth century called Juz de Bulânsa. This comprised Alcúdia, a part of what is now the Tramuntana municipality of Escorca and what is also now Pollensa. The first actual record of anyone's name in Pollensa was in 1123. It was on a gravestone and it was Arabic. But it was to be a hundred years or so, i.e. after Jaume I had turned up, that Pollensa truly became established and then grew rapidly before the Black Death put the mockers on things.

So, the history course that will be taking place over the next few weeks in Pollensa will take as its starting-point what can definitely be said to have been the start of Pollensa, which was after 1229.

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