Bellver Castle (Spain)
Balearic Islands See list of castles in Spagna
Castell de Bellver is located 3 km from the center of the city of Palma and 112.6m. high above sea level, overlooking the bay and much of the island of Mallorca.
Among the buildings erected throughout the history of Mallorca, Bellver Castle, is undoubtedly one of the most original and emblematic. The castle was built between 1300 and 1311 by direct order of King Jaime Jaume II of Mallorca and is located about 3 kilometers from the center of the city of Palma, on a hill 112 meters high. The enclosure responds to a very concrete and original plan. It consists of a perfectly circular Gothic style building, which is organized around a central circular courtyard, with four large towers facing the four cardinal points. The so-called major or tribute tower, in the north direction, is exempt from the rest of the complex, while the rest of the towers are embedded in the main body. Although attempts have been made to find precedents of circular castles in which Bellver could have been inspired, everything indicates that the Mallorcan work is a genuine innovative work.
The material used in the construction of Bellver Castle is marès, a type of sandstone that is easy to work and is frequently found throughout the Balearic geography. Much of the stone comes from the caves under the castle, as well as other quarries in the same forest, Portals Vells and Santanyí.
Bellver: The defensive function and the residential function
The construction of Bellver Castle was the result of a planned organization of defensive actions by the Casa Real Mallorquina. From the top of the mountain there was an unbeatable perspective for the control of foreign threats that could arrive by land and sea. Bellver was also conceived as a fortress palace where rulers could safely take refuge in case of danger. In any case, despite its defensive nature, the interior presented an elegant and refined taste, worthy of a royal residence, ideal for the recreation of the privileged who inhabited it.
Bellver after 1343
After being used as a royal residence, Bellver Castle housed the main authorities of the island for many years while beginning to serve as an occasional prison.
From the War of Succession (1700-1715) the castle became the main political and military prison of the island. The castle became an especially useful place when it was tried to silence the voice and to confuse people of great political and social influence. Important personalities such as the enlightened intellectual Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos, the astronomer and politician François Aragó or the liberal general Luis Lacy were sent to Bellver. Already in the days of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) the castle experienced the saddest and bitter moments in its history, with the imprisonment of more than 800 Republican prisoners defending the legitimate government democratically emerged from the polls.
The major tower
The major tower, perfectly protected and isolated from the rest of the fortress, was the last stronghold of resistance if Bellver was attacked. In this type of towers, the tribute ceremony was celebrated in a traditional way, for which the Castilian, as the head of the fortress, took an oath of fidelity and obedience to his king or lord and promised to defend the castle. For many years the major tower was also used as a prison. An important collection of graphites is the main proof of that period of seclusion.
It is inside the castle where you can see all its greatness and exquisiteness and see that, apart as a fortress, the castle was conceived as a royal residence with elegant and refined finishes. On the ground floor were the rooms destined basically to supply Bellver, while on the noble floor were the rooms and dependencies of the royal family, the official rooms for meetings, receptions and ceremonies, as well as the chapel of St. Frames.
The City History Museum
As a Museum of the History of the City, in its rooms Bellver offers a journey through the evolution of Palma, from the Talayotic settlements to the twentieth century, through the Roman conquest in the 123 century BC. and the foundation of the current urban nucleus, the Muslim stage from 903, the Catalan conquest in 1229, the establishment of the Kingdom of Mallorca (1276-1349), the construction of the Renaissance walls of Palma and its demolition in 1903.
The collection of Antonio Despuig is placed on the noble floor of the castle (Palma 1745 - Lucca 1813). Son of the counts of Montenegro, Despuig was one of the most prominent characters of the Mallorcan illustration, patron of artists and a regular person in the intellectual circles