Sant Marçal

Church of Sant Marçal

The first known church that existed in Marratxí was in the 13th century, years after the conquest by Jaume I. It belonged to Santa Maria del Camí and was dedicated to Sancta Maria de Barraxino. A century later, Sant Marçal became the titular saint of Marratxí.

It seems that the church changed location several times, until in the 16th century a church was built on the land owned by the Son Verí estate. It was not until 1699 that the construction that we see today began, and very quickly, in the first fifteen years, most of it was built. It was a totally isolated temple in the middle of the chaparral, as the village of Sa Cabaneta had not yet been created. For this reason, in the middle of the 20th century, the construction of new houses was ordered, as well as the installation of a telephone, among other improvements.

The work was commissioned to the master builder Lluc Mesquida, a prestigious stonemason who became the town’s chief master builder and first architect. It should be noted, however, that this church has come down to us quite modified, as it underwent major alterations in the 19th and 20th centuries. The well-known earthquake of 1851, which toppled part of Palma Cathedral and affected the Almudaina Palace and other parishes in several municipalities, also affected the church of Sant Marçal. Masses had to be said outside, for fear of demolition, until the new façade was rebuilt.

The original style of the church is baroque, although the main façade, dating from the mid-20th century, is reminiscent of classical churches. One of the most distinctive signs from afar are the twin towers with bulb-shaped domes, which function as bell towers. The largest, na Bàrbara, reads in Latin: “Santa Bàrbara, deliver us from lightning and storm. In Joan Cardell i Rebassa m’ha fet”.

The interior of the church imitates the model used in the Gothic period: a single nave with five side chapels and a semicircular apse, which is the space where the altar is located. Inside, the different phases of Baroque development are represented. The artistic value of the temple is due to the large number of works it contains and their quality, such as the altarpieces by Joan Deyà, one of the most valued sculptors of the 18th century in Mallorca, who brought together Italian, French and Germanic influences. Particularly noteworthy is the gleaming main altarpiece, gilded with 3,000 gold leafs, despite the fact that the image of Sant Marçal that presides over it dates from the late 15th century. Other pieces of note are the Baroque shrine and the Gothic altarpiece of the high altar tabernacle, attributed to the Homs school, one of the most important of the period.

Old cemetery gateway and Sa Rectoria

To the left of the church is the old cemetery of Sant Marçal, of which an interesting stone gateway has been preserved, a late 19th century Baroque work with an iron Latin cross. On the other side, on the right, is the vicarage, also in Baroque style and built in the 18th century, with some alterations in the 19th century.

The houses communicate through the archive and the sacristy and are organized around a central courtyard with a garden. The imperial scale and the whole of the cistern and the pike, all made of living stone, stand out, as well as the spring with a pike inscribed with the date 1649, which is believed to come from the old baptismal pike.

On the 30th of June, coinciding with the festivity of Sant Marçal, patron saint of Marratxí and advocate of pain and all evil, people come from all over Mallorca to venerate the saint. The pilgrimage from Palma to drink water from the cistern, to which supposedly curative properties are associated, is well known. Likewise, other events related to the intangible heritage carried out in this temple is the tradition of making the bed of the Virgin Mary, dead during the festivity of the Mare de Déu de Agosto.

Sant Marçal terme cross

Humans have always needed protection on the roads. In honour of Hermes – or Mercury -, the guardian god of the roads, stone pillars were erected, the origin of the later herma, a stone pillar that the Greeks placed at crossroads to mark the borders and limits of properties. The Romans also placed stones representing the god Terminus, protector of boundaries. Although the origin is uncertain, it is believed that with the process of Christianisation, all these pagan representations were replaced by crosses. In Western Europe during the late Middle Ages, between the 11th and 15th centuries, it was common to see a number of crosses at the entrances and exits of villages or on roads. Initially, these were no more than simple iron or wooden crosses. They could be considered the first Christian sculptural monuments.

In the Iberian Peninsula, the first crosses arrived in the north, specifically in Galicia, where they are known as cruceiros, in the context of the evangelization carried out by Breton and Irish friars introduced via the Way of St. James. It is from here that they spread towards the old Catalan-Aragonese crown in the first cruceiros associated with the French pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, during its peak in the 12th and 13th centuries. In Mallorca, they will reach us from Catalonia after the conquest of 1229.

Despite their name, boundary crosses did not always indicate where a town or city ended, as they had several functions. In addition to the indicative function, they were also used as welcome and farewell points which, with images such as Christ and the Virgin Mary, were intended to instruct and encourage the piety of travellers, marking the Christian identity of the territory. They also represented the power of the lords of the land, villages or towns. This is why religious images bear the coat of arms of the lord or the municipality. There are also commemorative crosses, to show a favour received; cemetery crosses, located in cemeteries, to symbolise Christian death; penitential crosses, as a reminder of the fulfilment of a penance, or Calvary crosses, located near churches or chapels and representing the death of Christ.

In the case of Mallorca, their purpose was to mark the dividing points of the municipalities, to indicate the centre and main avenues of the towns, to commemorate dates or to serve as protective elements. According to Néstor Carda, author of the book Las cruces de término de Mallorca, there are currently between 170 and 180 boundary crosses on the island.

The Sant Marçal cross is the only boundary cross in the municipality. It is in the historicist style, dating from the 1930s, and it replaces an older cross, which was located in front of the vicarage, next to the old road that passed in front of the church’s doorway. It has a Latin cross, with the image of Sant Marçal on the north side, the coat of arms of Marratxí on the south side, the coat of arms of Bishop Miralles on the west side and the coat of arms of the Crespí Bestard family on the east side, who subsidized part of the cross. The crown is believed to be Latin, with a crucified Christ and the symbols of the Evangelists on the arms.

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