Slings and stones may break my bones
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.
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.
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’.
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.
A pistol needs to have some stopping power, but that doesn’t mean it can’t look flash too.
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.
There were also a number of sets of duelling pistols on display, each in an elegant carry case.
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.
From the ramparts you can get some great panoramic views 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.
For the Castillo de San Carlos official site click here
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