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Bellver

Monument

Bellver castle is located 3 kilometres from the centre of the city of Palma and 112.6 m above sea level, dominating the bay and a large part of the island of Majorca.

Amongst all the buildings constructed in Majorca throughout  its history, the castle of Bellver is, without doubt, one of the most original and noteworthy. The castle was built between 1300 and 1311 by direct order of King James II of Majorca and is located some 3 kilometres from the centre of Palma, on a hill that is 112 metres in height.

The building is of a very specific and highly original plan. It comprises a building in the Gothic style with a perfectly circular floor plan, organized around a central patio that is also circular, and with four large towers facing the four points of the compass.

The main tower, or “torre del homenaje”, to the north, is separate from the rest of the complex, while the other towers are built into the main body. Although attempts have been made to find earlier examples of circular castles that might have inspired Bellver, everything suggests that the Majorcan castle is genuinely innovative.   Bellver castle is built from marès, a type of sandstone that is easy to work and is frequently found all over the Balearics. Much of the stone came from the caves beneath the castle and from other quarries in the same woods, from Portals Vells and from Santanyí. 

Bellver:

The defensive and residential functions:  Bellver castle was built as part of a proposed organisation of defensive actions by Majorca's royal house. The top of the hill gave an unbeatable perspective for controlling outside threats that might come by land or sea. Bellver was also planned as a palace-fortress where governors could take refuge in the case of danger. Nonetheless, despite the castle's defensive purpose the interior displayed an elegant and refined taste that was worthy of a royal residence and was an ideal place for the privileged few who lived there to relax.  

Bellver after 1343: 

After being used as a royal residence, for many years, Bellver castle hosted the island's main authorities and started to be used as an occasional prison.  After the War of Spanish Succession (1700-1715) the castle became the island's main political and military prison. It was especially useful when trying to silence and isolate figures of politically and socially influential figures. Important personalities such as the Enlightenment intellectual Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos, the astronomer and politician François Aragó and the liberal general Luis Lacy were sent to Bellver.

The saddest and most bitter moments of the castle's history came during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), with the incarceration of over 800 Republican prisoners who had defended the legitimately elected government.  

The main tower 

The main tower, perfectly protected and isolated from the rest of the fortress would be the last stronghold to resist if Bellver had been attacked. In this type of tower, the ceremony of homage would be held in which the castle steward, who was ultimately responsible for the fortress, swore an oath of fealty and obedience to his king or lord and swore to defend the castle.  For many years the main tower was also used as a prison. There is a large collection of graffiti proving this period of confinement.  

The castle interior 

The interior of the castle is where you can see all of its grandeur and exquisiteness and see how, as well as being a fortress, the castle was conceived as a royal residence with elegant and refined workmanship. The lower floor contains the rooms basically dedicated to the provisioning of Bellver, while on the main floor the accommodation and quarters of the royal family, the official chambers for holding meetings, receptions and ceremonies, and the chapel of Saint Mark were located.  

The City History Museum 

Bellver offers a trip through the development of Palma with the City History Museum that is located in its rooms. This goes from the Talayotic settlements up to the 20th century, passing through the Roman conquest in the year 123 BC and the foundation of the current urban core, the Muslim era from 903, the Catalan conquest in 1229, the establishment of the Kingdom of Majorca (1276-1349), the construction of Palma's Renaissance city walls and their demolition in 1903.   The collection of Antonio Despuig (Palma 1745 – Lucca 1813) is located on the castle's main floor. The son of the Count and Countess of Montenegro, Despuig was one of the leading figures in the Majorcan enlightenment; he was a patron for artists and an assiduous member of the intellectual circles of the era.  During the years when the cardinal was resident in Rome he amassed a major collection of sculptures and classical epigraphs, in an era when individual collections of antiquities were very common. Part of the collection came from an excavation that he himself carried out in Ariccia, very close to Rome. Also, as was normal at the time, Despuig ordered a large number of historical pieces and bought others from antique dealers who were offering the material.  The City History Museum houses a large part of this collection that was acquired by Palma Council in 1923 thanks to the intervention of the Societat Arqueològica Lul.liana and a group of Majorcan intellectuals.  Numerous cultural and leisure activities organized by Palma council are held in here.