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THE CHARTERHOUSE

THE CHARTERHOUSE

In 1309James II, King of Mallorca, ordered the construction of the palace on a mountain named Es Pujol, is the same place where the Moor Muza, lord of the valley, possible had his summer residence. Later, in 1311, the palace was extended by his son King Sancho I, who spent long periods in Valldemossa as he suffered from a respiratory illness. Since then, the palace would forever be known popularly as the Palace of King Sancho. The third and last resident of the palace was King James III, nephew and heir apparent to King Sancho. The palace was used during the hunting season and as royal residence in summer. Following the 1343 Aragonese conquest, the palace fell into disuse due to how far it was from the court.

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The story of the Charterhouse begins when the King of Aragon, Martin the Humane, protector of the Carthusians, an order founded by Saint Bruno, granted the monks the Palace of King Sancho in 1399 in order for them to found the Charterhouse. The first step was to turn the Royal Palace into a convent; the prison was turned into a refectory; the Church occupied the palace´s kitchen; the Plaza de Armas was transformed into a cemetery; a cloister was built in the surrounding area. The new construction work was carried out between the 16th and 17th centuries with the construction of the Santa María cloister, its cells, the chapterhouse and “Hell”, which was rooms used by women relatives of the monks.

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However, the original Charterhouse grew in a disordered fashion and was in a state of ruin. That led to the planning of a new floor in the 18th century, in 1701. The layout plans of the Catalan Charterhouse of Montealegre were copied. The new project was ambitious and was approved in 1718. The church was Neo-classical and was designed within a rectangle formed by side corridors flanked by two cloisters. Following several reviews, only a little part of the plan was built, the church and ten cells built on the right of the cloister named Las Murteres.

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The disentailment of the liberal government in 1821 saw the monastery and the convent put up for sale. The Charterhouse was divided into forty-seven parts of which twenty-seven were classified as houses. With the absolutist government re-established in 1823, it revoked the previous order and the church’s assets were returned to their owners.

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Upon the death of Fernando VII the disentailment process was restarted. Once the monks were expelled through the law of the minister Mendizábal in 1835 and having carried out the following public auction, the project was terminated, and the work remained half finished. A few years later, the Charterhouse was private, apart from the church, the sacristy, the pharmacy and the chapterhouse, which became the property of the diocese. That was when the residential Charterhouse came about, with cells being rented out to visitors.

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Years later, with the arrival of tourism, the Charterhouse complex become a museum operated by a civic society of owners. Currently, the Charterhouse is divided into nine parts. The disentailment led to the famous pair of romantic artists Frédéric Chopin and Aurore Dupín (George Sand), coming to live in one of its cells during the winter of 1838-1839. Thus, Sand left us with her book A Winter in Mallorca and Chopin, the compositions that are still heard among the building´s austere corridors.

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The Plaza where the Charterhouse is located, dates back to the 14th century and it was the parade ground of the Royal Palace. Afterwards, after becoming the property of the monks, it was converted into a cemetery and cloister. Subsequently, following the expulsion of the monks and confiscation by the government, the walls were knocked down in order to make it a public Plaza. Around it, you can observe the buildings that were used in the past as the premises for monks.

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In the Plaza, you can find two ticket offices where you can purchase tickets. One of them will provide entry to the monastery complex. Church, pharmacy, prior´s cell, the Chopin and George Sand collection and the Municipal Museum. The latter comprises four sections: landscape of the Serra de Tramuntana, Contemporary International Art, as well as a room dedicated to the Archduke Ludwig Salvator of Austria and the Guasp printing press, one of the best preserved and oldest in Europe. The same ticket provides a visit to the Palace of King Sancho and it includes a daily recital of pieces by the Polish composer.

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At the other ticket office, tickets are for visiting cell no.4, the cell once occupied by the ChopinGeorge Sand couple during their stay in Valldemossa. Both visits are recommendable as curious travellers can enjoy an interesting journey around the complex inner-history of the Charterhouse.

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Visits to the Charterhouse end at the Palace of King Sancho, with access from outside through Plaza Rubén Darío. Here you can observe what was once the medicinal plant garden, it has now been turned into a patio with a trellis, next to the former pharmacy of the Carthusians. The pharmacy was also used to supply the needs of the town. Turning right, you will pass under an arch or an old access door to the Charterhouse, the place where the gatehouse was located, which served as a foyer for contact with the outside world. It was also the place where alms were given, as well as medicines for the sick and other items the Charterhouse lacked.

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You will now find yourself at the beautiful vantage point named Miranda dels Lledoners: a lovely place with marvellous views. To the left, you can observe the parish of Sant Bartomeu and, on the right, the so-called Vinya dels Moscatells. In days gone by, access to the palace was through the original path (which is now the secondary entrance to the municipal centre) where the Royal coat of arms can still be seen.

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On one side, the Gothic defence tower of Els Hostes has stood since 1555, essential for protecting the town from pirate raids. The abovementioned tower was paid for by King Philip II and built by the master builder Miquel Bibiloni. It was later used to imprison Jovellanos. Next to the tower, there is a small building named “Hell” which in the past was home to a chapel and quarters for female relatives of the monks, as it was prohibited for them to access the monastery.