Notes from Puig de Maria

Sarah and I have just returned from a week’s holiday in Majorca. We played lots of Scrabble and ate well. Puerta Pollenca, where we were staying, is a deserted beachside strip of little bars and restaurants – a summer resort for middle class Brits complete with curry houses. The old town of Pollenca, a few miles inland and surrounded by mountains, is more interesting.


Santuario del Puig de Maria


On Friday we climbed Puig de Maria (330m), through pine forest, scrub, rocky paths, to the imposing medieval monastery of Santa Maria (above). It was windy and deserted up there. Views of the Tramunta mountains and the bays of Pollenca and Alcudia from high stone walls. The monastery complex comprises refectory, kitchen, defensive tower, chapel and numerous outlying buildings, some of which are habitable. As the doors were open we were able to stroll around the modest exhibition of artefacts (paintings, crumbling pews, news clippings, old copper pots) and into the beautiful, dark chapel.

This really brings out the Catholic in me, and the aesthete. As well as an impressive altar and ornate rood-screen, the building boasts four tiny side-chapels – three devoted to saints with local connections and one to the Virgin, who is said to have appeared as a shining light to three local hermitesses in the fourteenth century. In another side-chapel I found a discarded wooden frieze decorated with the Eye of Providence – a single eye within a pyramid, surrounded by dark clouds. The Eye has been a popular mainstream Christian symbol since the seventeenth century but has more ancient and occult origins as the representation of the solar deity. It’s also been used in the Templar and then Masonic traditions, and the architect Nicholas Hawksmoor was a big fan. Spooky stuff, Dan Brown territory. In fact, the Knights Templar did own land here, using the island as a major naval base during the height of their powers. Templar influence in Pollenca includes its main church Nostra Senyura des Angels.

I didn’t manage to get much proper writing done, but here are some ‘poetic notes’ from our visit to Santuario del Puig de Maria. I’d love to return here and spend whole days reading and writing in the courtyard of the monastery.


All-seeing eye


Inside: scenes from
the island’s history

the Virgin liberating
imprisoned soldiers
rescuing mariners in the bay
upturning apple-carts
with her spotlight gaze

daubed squares of wood

stairs leading to the roof
a door leading to a passageway
a passageway to the chapel

and no entrance
to the tower
that we could

an eye caught
at the centre
of a pyramid

and other strange markings

hush child
hush my love

the chapel is dug
from the rock
the sheer rock face

and waxy stalactites
drip the centuries’
passing like an inverted
candle tendered to flame

like a prayer
that was really
a wish

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