The historical records of Valldemossa go back to the 14th century, when the asthmatic King Sancho built this palace in the mountains to make the most of the clean air. In 1399, the palace was handed over to the Carthusian monks, who remodelled it as a monastery. The Real Cartuja de Jesu de Nazaret (Royal Carthusian Monastery of Jesus of Nazareth) was abandoned in 1835 when the monks were dispossessed.
The composer Feredric Chopin rented a former monk’s cell here in 1838 with his lover George Sand, the feminist French writer, and the monastery is now the town’s main tourist attraction. In front of the entrance, in Placa de la Cartuja de Valldemossa, is a monument to Chopin.
The monastery includes a chapel with a ceiling decorated with late-Baroque paintings by Miguel Bayeu, a relative of Goya’s. Behind the chapel are rows of shady arcades. The prior’s cell, despite its name, consists of several spacious rooms with access to a private garden offering a magnificent view of the valley below. The rooms house an exhibition of religious artifacts. The adjacent cells contain mementos of Chopin and George Sand.
The 17th-century monastery pharmacy contains a variety of ceramic and glass jars with wonderfully detailed descriptions of their contents (look out for the jar containing “powdered beasts’ claws”).
The monastery also houses the excellent Museu Municipal Art Contemporani, which has a small collection of works by distinguished Spanish artists including Antoni Tpies, Joan Miro and Juli Ramis – a modernist painter and native of Mallorca. There is also a cycle of illustrations by Pablo Picasso, Burial of Count Orgaz, inspired by the famous El Greco painting.
On leaving the arcades you can proceed to the Palau del Rei Sano – the Palace of King Sancho. This is the oldest fortified part of the monastery. The main point of interest is the wooden drawbridge connecting the two chambers over the palace’s entrance. Once used as a political prison, the palace now serves as a venue for displays of folk dancing and recitals of Chopin’s music.
Valldemossa itself is charming and always bustling. Most visitors are keen to see the places associated with Chopin, but a stroll along the town’s narrow cobbled alleys is definitely worthwhile. The modest house at c/Rectoria 5 is where the saintly nun Catalina Thomas was born to a peasant family. The house has been converted into a richly decorated chapel, with the statue of the saint standing in front, holding a jug with flowing water. Nearby is the 15th-century church of Sant Bartomeu, now, unfortunately, partly destroyed.
Port de Valldemossa lies some 6 km (4 miles) north of Valldemossa. This is a small fishing village scenically poised on the shores of a narrow bay and surrounded by rugged cliffs. It is reached by a narrow, hairpin road. The local beach, although small and pebbly, is enchanting and occupies a beautiful location. The demanding journey is rewarded by a number of local restaurants specializing in seafood.