Located overlooking the sea on the site of a prehistoric town, the Palace still contains the ruins from that period some of which can still be seen at the lower level of the palace. When the island was conquered by the Romans in 121 B.C. they chose the site to house a fort, which remained there until it was destroyed by the Vandals in the 5th century, who then construct one of their own on the same site.
In 540 A.D. the island was recaptured by the Romans and remained part of the Byzantine Empire for almost two centuries. In the early 8th century the first Muslims started to arrive on Mallorca and a number of attempts were made to conquer the island. In 903 their efforts were successful and from 903 this was the residence of the Moorish rulers of Mallorca.
Over the next two centuries there were a number of battles with the Christian attempting to regain control of the island and in 1115 they gained entrance to the Palace, which they plundered and set fire to. This was rebuilt by Muhammad ibn Ganniya who broke away from the Almoravid (an imperial Berber dynasty known for its empire in the 11th century) proclaiming himself Muhammad I. During the late 12th century it took on the form of a Berber castle and no further alterations were made to it during the Moorish rule of the island.
In 1229 King James I (1229-1276) of Aragon captured the island and moved into the Palace whereby establishing it as the town residence of the Mallorcan Kings. James I spent the last years of his life at the palace and following his death in 1276, his son James, became James II (1276-1285), King of Majorca and began to convert the palace into a Christian castle in the Levantine Gothic style. Work started in 1281 but in 1285 Alfonso III (1285-1295) king of Aragon captured the island and held it until 1295 when James II (1296-1311) regained the throne.
From 1303 until 1311 when James II died, a number of the works were completed. This included: The Great Hall, Kings Palace, Queens Palace, St Anne’s and St James’s Chapels, Kings and Queens Gardens and the statue of St Gabriel the Archangel having been place on top of one of the towers.
The Kings that followed James II were Sancho I (1311-1324) and James III (1324-1344) and they continued the development of the palace until James was forced to leave the island by the Aragonese King Peter IV (1344-1387) but in an attempt to regain the throne was killed. This resulted in the annexation of Majorca to Aragon in 1349 and this led to a decline for the Almudaina Palace, although Peter IV did do some work on St Anne’s Chapel.
In the 15th and 16th centuries the palace was used by a number of Kings while visiting Majorca and during the 16th century it underwent a number of changes due to fire and earthquake damage, although improvements were also made with the installation of the Royal Audience Room in the Great Hall and the room being divided into two levels.
In the 19th century a number of projects were undertaken such as the lowering of some of the towers and the replacement of the groined vaults with simpler ones. In 1877 Alfonso XII transferred part of the building to the War Office for their use.
In the 1960’s the palace underwent a major restoration programme of both the interior and exterior. Today it is the headquarters of the Captain-General of the Balearic Islands although King Juan Carlos uses some of the rooms including the Grand Council Room. Parts of the palace are open to the public and can be seen on a visit.
Many of the rooms are empty although it does contain some beautiful tapestries dating back to the 16th century.
The Great Hall was the hub of the palace during the 15th and 16th centuries and was the place where the king held his audiences, it was also the place of banquets and where trials would take place. In 1578 the roof collapsed and the room was rebuilt on two levels with three rooms at ground level consisting of an audience room, which was later split into the Hall of Fireplaces, so called as it contained three fireplaces and the Hall of Kings containing the portraits of nine Kings and Queens of Majorca. The ground floor also contained an antechamber and a council room. Above these is the large hall containing a ribbed vaulted ceiling.
The Arab Baths were probably built by the Romans and consists of three rooms, which were normal for Roman baths; the frigidarium, the tepidarium and the caldarium. These were rediscovered in 1976 and were subsequently restored.
The Kings Palace is entered via the Royal Staircase which leads from the Parade Ground. During the time of the Moors this was a courtyard where the towns people would seek shelter when they were under attack. This was also used for such ceremonies connected to the funerals of the kings, and the swearing in ceremonies for knights. The courtyard contains the lion fountain and the entrance to St Anne’s Chapel. This Chapel was built for the Queen at the beginning of the 14th century, as was St. James’s Chapel, which was for the use of the King.
From a courtyard known as the Queen’s or Spring Courtyard is access to the Queen’s Palace which consists of a number of rooms but this is not open to the public as it is used as the Headquarters of the Balearic Military.
To see more photographs and take a virtual tour of the site click on the photoshow below.
All Photographs taken by and copyright of Ron Gatepain