Palma de Mallorca Almudaina Palace
The ancient palace of the Moorish Kings
Mallorca Almudaina Palace     History and Construction
The history of the location of the Almudaina Palace in Mallorca goes back long before the Moors and even the Romans who founded Palma in 123 BC.
The site dominates the entrance to the city and this excellent strategic position was realised as early as the Talayot period, whose people were the first to live here millennia ago. The Romans used the same area in the 2nd century BC to create a nucleus for their new city, Palmeria, which marked the birth of the city as we know it.
When the ‘Dark era’ began, 7 centuries later, the Vandals destroyed it building one of their own, but in 903 when the Arabs conquered the island, the governor, or Wali as he was known, built himself a fortress on the same site. ‘Almudayna’ in Arabic meaning ‘Fortress’ and this was the beginning of the building you see now.
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Two centuries of great splendour followed until in 1115, during a brief occupation of the city by the Christians, La Almudaina was plundered and burnt. What was left was reconstructed, and then changed again, until eventually it took on the form of a Berber castle – a style typical of North Africa. No further alterations were made until the Christians took possession of the island in the 13th century, when King James II
began its transformation to the Levantine Gothic style and the palace became the headquarters for the Kingdom of Mallorca/Majorca.
At the beginning of the 14th century, a series of major alterations were carried out including the construction of The Great Hall, the making of the sculpture of the Archangel St Gabriel and the founding of St Anne’s Chapel. But by the time James II passed away in 1311, much of the Mallorca Almudaina Palace was already completed.
His successor King Sancho I decorated a number of rooms but much more notable work was carried out by his successor James III, who was responsible for the construction of the Royal Cellar.
When Mallorca became part of the Kingdom of Aragon in the mid-14th century a period of neglect began for the Almudaina Palace.
The 16th century brought more changes, some due to fires and earthquakes, and others due to extensions and improvements. One notable event, due to fire, resulted in the division of The Great Hall into two levels.
At the beginning of the 18th century the weapons room was constructed on the site of the old Royal Cellar and in the middle of the same century the ‘Torre Del Angel’ was lowered, mainly for fear of earthquakes.
A large number of remodelling projects began in the 19th century and these were continued through to the beginning of the 20th when the reconstruction of the ‘Torre Del Caps’, mentioned earlier, was undertaken. From 1963 a major restoration program began on the exterior and interior of the building, which continued in the 1970’s under a different architect.
Since then no major work has been done on the Almudaina Palace but it is clear that with so much history and change, the building now reflects a panoply of architecture from the different periods.
In essence, the Almudaina Palace in Mallorca has a rectangular foundation, surrounded by tall walls and square based towers. The most outstanding is the ‘Torre del Angel’, or Angel Tower. It is the same that was mentioned earlier and is named after the sculpture of the now green Archangel Gabriel that crowns it. It was built in 1117 by the Almoravids to fortify their defences but was taller than it is today. During the epoch of the Kingdom of Mallorca/Majorca it was extended even further and together with the angel reached a colossal height close to that of the cathedral. It provided an advantageous viewpoint and was originally put to use as a watchtower, controlling the movements of boats in and out of the bay. The vast height however became untenable over the centuries, mainly due to lightning and earthquakes, and it was eventually lowered to where it is today.
The angel itself is a weather vane, made of bronze-covered wood and contains a system of internal spindles allowing her to move in the wind. James II commissioned it in 1310.
Mallorca Almudaina Palace     Interior & The Museum
2-The Great Hall
4-Torre del Ángel
6-Patio del Brollador
7-St Anne's Chapel
8-Patio de Armas
Inside, the Almudaina Palace has two, very different and essentially independent focal points – the King’s Palace and the Queen’s Palace. Around these, the other buildings sprang up, eventually followed by the courtyard and gardens.
There are 3 areas worth highlighting: The Great Hall, The Arab baths and St. Anne’s Chapel.’
The Great Hall, which actually encompasses 3 rooms on the lower floor and 1 on the first, is seen by many as the most spectacular room in the Almudaina Palace. Those of you who know the ‘Tinell’ in Barcelona or the ‘Salle De Mallorques’ in Perpignan Palace will recognise certain features in common and like these, it was once used as a banqueting hall and as an official room for the reception of ambassadors. In 1578, due to fire, the roof collapsed but on reconstruction the room was divided into two floors. Fortunately, the Gothic arches on the upper floor were left intact. Both floors were fully restored in the last century and are now used as the King’s audience room.
The Arab baths are situated between the King’s Palace and the Queen’s Palace and allowed access from both quarters. Their exact date of construction is unknown but there is strong evidence to suggest they date back to the very beginnings of the Almudaina Palace. They consist of three private baths, which would have ranged in temperature, and they became particularly popular with the Christian Kings of the 14th and 15th centuries. Interestingly, it wasn’t until 1976 that all three rooms were discovered and they were seen as a group collectively.
Finally, St. Anne’s Chapel. Despite the many alterations of the palace over the years, it remains one of the buildings which has been least affected. It was constructed by James II in 1310 and is an excellent example of the Levantine Gothic architecture from this century. Amongst other things of note, is the entrance portal, made from Pyrenean marble. It is one of the few examples of the romantic Catalan style, or Romanesque, that can be found on the island.
Today, the Mallorca Almudaina Palace is the official residence of the King and Queen of Spain, although when they visit the island they are more likely to be found at their Marivent residence. It also serves as the headquarters for the military command of the Balearics and, of course, a museum.
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