History of Minorca
Minorca has been, since prehistoric times to more recent times, a staging point of different cultures owing to its strategic location in the heart of the western Mediterranean. Its location has attracted, since the dawn of civilization, different peoples who have coveted the island as a stopover port and a shelter.
All these people left a rich historical legacy in the island, which is the most easterly of the Balearic territories and is a place of outstanding heritage.
It is for this reason that historians and archaeologists consider Minorca to be an authentic open-air museum.
Both its prehistory and history are so intense that it seems inappropriate for such a small territory.
Human presence in Minorca has been verified from the beginning of the Bronze Age (2000 B.C.) that was called the pre-Talayotic period and it left important burial monuments such as megalithic tombs and the collective tombs known as navetas. The best known of these is the Naveta de Tudons. It also left small settlements made up of apse rooms.
Towards 1400 B.C., the evolutionary process of this culture produced various large stone constructions known as talayots. This word gives rise to the name of the richest prehistoric period of the island, namely, the Talayotic period.
At this time there was a great expansion of settlements like Trepucó, Torre d'en Galmés or Son Catlar. Each had a single monument of worship called a taula and scores of artificial caves excavated in the cliffs had necropolis characteristics, such as Calascovas o Cala Morell.
The indigenous culture, based fundamentally on cyclopean construction, soon received important outside influence from expanding merchant peoples, such as the Carthaginians who were already established in Ibiza and who above all were noted for introducing new tools and ornaments.
Finally, in 123 B.C., the Roman conquest occurred and this brought with it the transformation of the Talayotic settlements and the preponderance of three cities located at important ports: Mago (Maó), Jammo (Ciutadella) and Sanisera (Sanitja).
Interesting early Christian basilicas were left behind from the end of the Roman era. The most notable are those of Son Bou and Fornás de Torelló, that has an interesting mosaic. These basilicas date from the 5th century A.D.
After this time, Minorca went through its least known about period of history until 903 A.D., when the Muslims annexed Minorca to the Caliphate of Cordoba.
Numerous ceramic fragments of this period have been found in some Talayotic settlements. The settlements must have been very rural, even though written sources describe a rich economy and a literary culture. Notable from this period are the ruins of the Santa Águeda castle in Ferreries. This was a Muslim fort that was destroyed in the time of Pedro el Ceremonioso (Peter the Ceremonious), years after the conquest of Minorca by the crown of Aragón.
From 1287, the island lived through the ups and downs of the Aragón crown and subsequently the kingdom of Majorca. Those were the centuries of the founding of towns in the interior such as Alaior and Ferreries. It is worth visiting the gothic cathedral of Ciutadella which is of this period and to go for a stroll along the streets of the old town of this city.
Minorca lived through the most tragic times of its history in the 16th century. There were incessant pirate incursions that resulted in a great instability for the inhabitants. The culmination was the destruction of Maó (1535) and Ciutadella (1558) by Turkish attacks. The island was on the verge of being left abandoned when Felipe II (Philip II) took the decision of building the Sant Felipe fort at the entrance of the port of Maó and some of the coastal defence towers such as Sant Nicolau in Ciutadella.
In the 18th century, Minorca once again began to be involved in the ups and downs of Europe and, as a result of the war of succession for the Spanish throne, it passed into English hands in 1713. For one hundred years the island would be under English rule, with short periods of French and Spanish domination. The English reinforced defences by building more towers on the coast, such as those that can be seen in the port of Maó, Fornells and Fort Malborough in cala San Esteban.
The 19th and 20th centuries were as cosmopolitan as the previous ones, firstly because of the continuous arrival of foreign armies in the port of Maó that was initially a free port. Dating from the 19th century are Lazareto and the Isabel II fort in la Mola, both in the port of Maó.
Both the above centuries are witnesses to extreme poverty as well as times of economic prosperity, thanks to incipient industry and commerce.
The 20th century was characterized by equilibrium between the primary, secondary and tertiary economic sectors until the beginning of the 1980s, when the tourist industry became the most developed sector. This resulted in a large number of visitors and this threatened the image of the island that tourists themselves had of our island. This situation was brought to a halt thanks to the declaration of the Biosphere Reserve and to the popular conscience for its conservation.
The cultural opportunities are numerous and varied in Minorca. Special attention should be given to the numerous prehistoric settlements and monuments, spread out throughout the insular territory. These include, among many others, the Naveta des Tudons, Torralba den Salord, Torre den Gaumés and Cales Coves.
There are numerous museums: Museu de la Natura in Ferreries, the Museu Diocesà and the Museo Municipal des Bastió de Sa Font in Ciutadella, the Museo de Menorca and the Museo Hernández-Sanz in Maó, as well as the Museo Militar and Fort Marlborough in Es Castell.
The main cultural events of the year are the international opera week in Maó, the summer music festival and the Capella Davídica concerts in Ciutadella, as well as the international organ festivals in Santa Maria, Maó, and in the cathedral in Ciutadella.
Jazz concerts are also enjoying a boom and they continue to be a part of the musical offerings of the island.