Island, Balearic Islands (Baleares) autonomous community, Spain. The largest of the Balearic Islands, it lies in the western Mediterranean Sea and occupies an area of 1,405 sq mi (3,640 sq km). Palma, the capital of the autonomous community, is located on the island. The kingdom of Majorca was established by James I of Aragon in the 13th century and was united with Aragon in the 14th century. During the Spanish Civil War (1936–39), it was a base for Italian aid to the Nationalists. Now a popular tourist centre, it was a favourite destination of Frédéric Chopin, who wrote some of his finest mazurkas and preludes there.
Learn more about Majorca with a free trial on Britannica.com.
The capital of the island, Palma, is also the capital of the autonomous community of the Balearic Islands. The Cabrera archipelago is administratively grouped with Majorca (in the municipality of Palma). The anthem of Majorca is La Balanguera.
Like the other Balearic Islands of Ibiza, Formentera, and Minorca, the island is a popular tourist destination. In Germany and the United Kingdom, where package tourism to the island started in May 1952, Majorca has remained a popular destination. Since the 1960s, it has also become a synonym for mass tourism.
In 426, the Vandals sacked the island, and annexed it to their kingdom in 465. In 534, Majorca was conquered by the Byzantine Empire, and administered as part of the province of Sardinia. Under Byzantine rule, Christianity flourished and numerous churches were built. But from 707, the island was increasingly attacked by Muslim raiders from North Africa.
In 902, the Caliphate of Cordoba conquered Majorca, ushering in a new period of prosperity for the island. With the Caliphate at its height, the Moors improved agriculture with irrigation, developed local industries and the island benefited from the overall prosperous times. After the Caliphate dismembered in 1015, a new, more decadent, era started. Majorca came under rule by the Taifa of Denia, and from 1087–1114 was an independent taifa. However, in 1114, an expedition of Pisans and Catalans overran the island, laying siege to Palma for 8 months. After the city fell, the invaders retreated, and were replaced by the Almoravides from North Africa, who ruled till 1203. The Almoravides were replaced by the Almohad dynasty until 1229. In the ensuing confusion and unrest, King James I of Aragon launched an invasion with 15,000 men and 1,500 horses, annexing the island to his Crown of Aragon after a 3 month campaign.
After the death of James I in 1276, his kingdom was divided between his sons. James II became king of the new Kingdom of Majorca. In 1344, King Peter IV of Aragon invaded, and re-incorporated the island into the Crown.
From 1479, the Crown of Aragon was in dynastic union with that of Castile. In the early 18th century, the War of the Spanish Succession resulted in the replacement of that dynastic union with a unified Spanish monarchy. In 1716 the Decretos de Nueva Planta made Majorca part of the Spanish province of Baleares, roughly equivalent to present-day Illes Balears province and autonomous community.
The capital of Majorca, Palma, was founded as a Roman camp called Palmaria upon the remains of a Talaiotic settlement. The turbulent history of the city saw it subject to several Vandal sackings during the fall of the Roman Empire. It was later reconquered by the Byzantine, colonised by the Moors (who called it Medina Mayurqa), and finally established by James I of Aragon. In 1983, Palma was adopted as the capital of the autonomous region of the Balearic Islands.
A Nationalist stronghold at the start of the Spanish Civil War, Majorca was subjected to an amphibious landing, on August 16 1936, aimed at driving the Nationalists from Majorca and reclaiming the island for the Republic. Although the Republicans heavily outnumbered their opponents and managed to push 12 kilometres inland, superior Nationalist air power mainly provided by Fascist Italy forced the Republicans to retreat and to leave the island completely by September 12. Those events became known as the Battle of Mallorca.
For the rest of the Civil War the island was used as a base for the Nationalist navy and airforce, who mounted raids on the Spanish mainland.
Since the 1950s, the advent of mass tourism radically changed the physiognomy of both the city and the island, transforming it into a centre of attraction for foreign visitors and attracting workers from mainland Spain. This contributed to a huge change in the traditions, the sociolinguistic map, urbanisation and acquisitive power.
The boom in tourism caused Palma to grow significantly, with repercussions on immigration. In 1960 Majorca received 500,000 visitors, while in 1997 it received 6,739,700. In 2001, more than 19,200,000 people passed through Son Sant Joan Airport in Palma, with an additional 1.5 million arriving by sea.
In the 21st century, urban redevelopment, under the so-called Pla Mirall (English "Mirror Plan"), attracted important groups of immigrant workers from outside the European Union, especially from Africa and South America.
Majorca has two mountainous regions each about 70 km in length. These occupy the north-western (Serra de Tramuntana or Tramuntana range) and eastern thirds of the island. The highest peak on Majorca is Puig Major (1,445 m) in the Serra de Tramuntana. As this is a military zone, the neighbouring peak at Puig de Massanella is considered the highest accessible peak (1,364 m). The northeast coast comprises two sweeping bays: the Badia de Pollença and the larger Badia d'Alcúdia. The northern coast is generally rugged and has many cliffs. The central zone extending from Palma is generally flat fertile plain known as Es Pla.
The climate is Mediterranean, with markedly higher precipitation in the Serra de Tramuntana. Summers are hot in the plains and winters mild to cool, getting colder in the Tramuntana range; in this part of the island brief episodes of snow during the winter are not unusual.
The island is administratively divided into these municipalities:
Many famous people have lived on the island. They include:
Of the modern celebrities, which include:
The members of the Spanish Royal Family traditionally spend their summer holidays in Majorca, where they have a palace.
The Balearic Islands, of which Majorca forms part, is one of the Spanish autonomous communities. It is currently governed by a coalition of five different leftist and nationalist parties headed by the Partit Socialista (PSOE) under Francesc Antich.
There is a specific government for the island which is called Consell Insular de Mallorca (Majorca Insular Council) with competences in culture, roads, railways (see Serveis Ferroviaris de Mallorca) and municipal administration. As of 2008, the president of the institution is Francina Armengol from PSIB-PSOE.
In addition, the diversity of the population is reflected by the increasing variety of restaurants.
Discover Majorca's Sensitive Soul; Frank Barrett Relaxes on a Sophisticated Island That Is Shaking off Its Package Image
Jun 14, 2009; Byline: Frank Barrett Majorca is cross. The island is not really that bothered by the downturn in its holiday business. In...
Discover Majorca's True Sensitive Soul; Frank Barrett Relaxes on a Sophisticated Island That Is Shaking off Its Package Image
Jul 12, 2009; Byline: Frank Barrett Majorca is cross. The island is not really that bothered by the downturn in its holiday business. In...