Castillo de San Carlos, Majorca

Castillo de San Carlos, Majorca

Slings and stones may break my bones

Castillo de San Carlos, Majorca

Whilst waiting for favourable winds for our onward journey, I thought I would check out the Castillo de San Carlos here in Palma, Majorca. This fort overlooks the capital’s port, and now houses a museum detailing the history of the defence of the city.

Back in the olden days, the Ottomans, Barbarians and pirates used to frequently turn up and plunder the city of Palma. The city’s merchants, having had a gutful of their wares being stolen, lobbied for fortifications to be built. Construction of a tower began in 1610, and successive additions over time resulted in the impressive structure known today as Castillo de San Carlos.

castle door
If you’re going to keep out a horde of rampaging Barbarians, you’re going to need some serious doors

Every day’s a school day, and I certainly learnt a few things at the Castillo. Did you know there is a patron saint of artillary? Well there is. No, really. Santa Barbara is the patron saint of those who handle explosives and lob ordinance. When your job involves handling highly unstable substances that could maim or kill you at any moment, having a patron saint probably made it marginally easier to punch the time clock each morning.

Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara

The Castillo contained a huge collection of weapons, including the types used in the defence of Palma over the centuries. Before the use of gunpowder vastly increased the potential for killing and disfigurement, the humble slingshot was the weapon of choice for discerning Mallorcan warriors. Turns out the word Balearic (the name for the group of islands of which Mallorca is the largest) means ‘Master of Throwing’.

Balearic sling
Apparently Mallorcan slingers could let fly at frightening speed and at a range of up to 100 metres

The display in the Museum stated ‘Slingers were initiated from birth in the handling of the sling and constantly forced to continuous improvement’. I don’t want to be overly critical but it seems like a case of helicopter parenting to me. Considering a baby can’t control its bodily movements, functions, or anything much else for that matter it seems a little unreasonable to shove a sling into its tiny hand from day one and expect ‘continuous improvement’. Still, I guess it worked, as the Slingers were renowned for their skill throughout the Mediterranean. Not only did they defend their island home, but they were also paid as mercenaries to maim other people’s enemies.

On to more modern weaponry, this blunderbuss dates back to the late 1600s, and looks like it would be just as dangerous to operate as it would be to face.

Imagine the kickback on this bastard

A pistol needs to have some stopping power, but that doesn’t mean it can’t look flash too.

historic pistol, Spain
Gangster bling didn’t start in the L.A. hood

Check out this baby. Reloading old pistols took time, so when you were you were outnumbered four-to-one you’d be thankful you were packing the ol’ four-shooter.

four-barrel historic pistol Spain
The drawback of course is having to ask your assailants to kindly stand line abreast, equidistant apart, before you let rip.

There were also a number of sets of duelling pistols on display, each in an elegant carry case.

Dueling pistols, Spain
‘Juan, I’m afraid Alejandro and I have had a disagreement. Please fetch the duelling pistols’

I wonder when a gentleman would feel it was appropriate to take his pistols with him on an outing? Would you have to take them every time you left the house, just in case there was a need to duel? I suppose you could leave them at home when you were just heading down the shops, but what if someone insulted your honour over the last bowl of gazpacho?

The Castillo complex featured an impressive parade ground, where you can imagine displays of pomp in peacetime, and possibly panic during an assault.

Castillo de San Carlos, Majorca
‘Ten shun!’
Castillo de San Carlos, Majorca
Although aircraft hadn’t been invented yet, the defenders of Castille de San Carlos were not taking any chances

From the ramparts you can get some great panoramic views of the harbour city of Palma.

Castillo de San Carlos, Majorca
A great panoramic view of the harbour city of Palma

Nowadays, the only Barbarians turning up in Mallorca are a British rugby club on their end of season trip. However, just like in the old days when Castillo de San Carlos stood fast against invaders, I imagine the Mallorcans still feel a sense of dread upon their arrival.

Castillo de San Carlos, Majorca
‘Slingers to the ramparts!’

For the Castillo de San Carlos official site click here

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2 thoughts on “Castillo de San Carlos, Majorca

  1. Funny you should mention hand grenades. The display included a variety of glass hand grenades that were very popular at the time. Apparently they would fill the glass with gunpowder, light the fuse, and throw them at one another. The museum’s description mentioned that the grenades were effective in causing ‘hard to recover from wounds’.

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