History of Castell de Bellver
Bellver was ordered constructed by king Jaume II of Mallorca, in the early 14th century, as royal residence and fortress.
There are multiple theories about who the original master architect of the Bellver castle was. It is, however, most likely that it was Ponç Descoll, a military engineer whom also designed the round Jewish enclosure in the city of Perpignan, known as “le Call”, just as the Jewish quarter in Palma was called “la Call”. Perpignan (France) was the official seat of the king of Mallorca, and we know that Ponç Descoll was also the main architect behind the first Trinity chapel in the la Seu cathedral. He was also in charge of renovating the Angel Tower in the Almudaina palace.
Descoll was known for his style that often combined the robustness of fortifications with austere grace.
Another protagonist in the construction of Castell de Bellver is Pere Salvà, whom is often accounted as the most influential builder of the castle and received highest payments.
Salvà was particularly known for using stones from Santanyí, because the original stones from quarries on the same hill did not hold. This gave rise to Santanyís stone production industry that is still considered one of the best in Spain.
The castle was officially finished in 1314, and king Sanç occasionally resided here.
In 1343, during the occupation of the island by Aragonese-Catalan king Peter III, the castle was too sieged. After the defeat of king Jaume III of Mallorca, resistant Mallorcans was imprisoned here.
In 1395, John I of Aragón lived here when he escaped the plague that ravaged Barcelona at the time.
In 1408, Martin the Humane gave the castle to the Carthusian monks of Valldemossa.
In July, 1521, the city of Palma came under siege when a revolt led by artisan guilds took control of the city, which caused all nobles to take refuge in the castle. This was the beginning of the violent time of “les Germanies” (the Brotherhoods), which led to two years of war on the island.
In 1523, the leaders of les Germanies were executed here.
From 1802 – 1808, Spanish minister of justice, Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos, was imprisoned here as the first political prisoner.
During the Spanish-French war, prisoners of the Battle of Bailén (1808) was kept here.
The last time Bellver was used as a prison was during the revolt that started the Spanish Civil War (1936), when 800 republicans were imprisoned here. During their time here, they were forced to build the access road that goes from Palma to the castle.
Of special interest in Castell de Bellver
1. The famous prison of l’Olla (the pot) in the basement of the main tower.
2. The chapel behind the semicircular arched gallery is decorated with columns with Mudejar pottery.