The name of the town of Santanyi dates back to a farmhouse from the time of Arab rule and was quoted for the first time in the archives in the thirteenth century. The Christian conquerors called the city Sancti Agnini, The Holy Lamb, but over the years the use of the Arabic name increased more and more.
The fertile plain of the Alqueria Blanca is also Arabic in origin. However, this area had been populated long before the locals built talaiots, or stone monuments and small stone cottages. This is where the story of Santanyi really began.
Besides agriculture an extensive trade in building stone developed. The Arabs built a famous palace with these stones which later became the Almudaina. The construction of Palmas cathedral took more than five centuries… a very long time…during which the master builders continually noted down the construction blocks that were supplied from the Santanyi area.
Also the Lonja in the dock of the old harbour in Palma came from the rocks of Migjorn. The stones in Santanyi are limestones, campact fine-grained sedimentary rocks caused by the cementation of mineral grains extracted from quarries. One of them is the gravel pit of Puig the Consolacio. Huge sides of hills that have been sculpted into the landscape by generations of stone-cutters look like a canyon created by man.
The structure of the surrounding city of Santanyi still appears clearly marked by the centuries that it was threatened by pirate attacks from the sea. At the peak of the danger, between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the place was built as a real city, with mighty walls the remnants of which now only exist at the Porta Murada.
The town is situated just 70 metres above the sea level. Ground water was always too salty, so the drinking water was gathered on rooftops with channels that fed through to tanks. In the middle of town there is a large covered cistern called s’aljub, which has been painstakingly restored and is considered to be one of the most significant monuments of the town.
The centre of the city’s religious life is the parish church dedicated to St. Andrew. The oldest part of the church is the Chapel of Rose adorned with a shield with the year 1278, so it was built shortly after the conquest of James I. The imposing nave of the church resembles a fortress and was consecrated in 1811.
Not much has changed in Santanyi. The 7,000 inhabitants that live around here are known as santanyiers, and the municipality has attracted wealthy visitors from abroad. The council is among the largest in Mallorca, with an area of nearly 130 km2. Many young santanyiers have left their place of birth to find alternative work as agriculture is becoming less profitable and work as a stone-cutter too laborious. Maria del Mar Bonet even sings a song about those who leave their village.
On the Santanyi road to Alqueria Blanca, just before entering the town, you will find the Oratory of the Consolació. This chapel was built in the sixteenth century to protect against pirate attacks in the municipality of Santanyi in 1590.
It is a quiet place well worth a visit even only for its views, where it seems as if history has left no trace in the buildings or in the gardens. Here again we recognize the stonework surrounding the building. The tank, of great beauty, was carved from a single piece of stone. A fountain invites the thirsty traveller to rest.
The view from this point covers the entire west and south coast of Mallorca, only the residential areas of Porto Colom, Cala d’Or and Porto Petro disrupt the grand panorama. To the south, the island of Cabrera stands out on the horizon like a silver band.