The castle like walls and the church rising above them have become the icon and symbol of Arta, the Santuari can be spotted from all over the town, it has become the spiritual centre for the town and the local people and it’s image has found its way onto all manner of souvenirs and artwork denoting Arta and the North East of Mallorca.
The location atop the hill had long been known as a site of strategic importance and originally held a 10th century Moorish stronghold and Mosque called Almudaina, however following the Catalan conquest of the Islamic inhabitants the Mosque was turned into a Christian Temple, the remains of which the Santuari is now built on. The walls were constructed in the 14th century to protect the town from invaders and have been much renewed and reconstructed over the years, first in the 16th century to further protect against pirate raids and again when they were completely rebuilt in the 20th century by the Society of Friends of the Castles who also added to them with towers and battlements in order to make them the exhibition site they are today.
The walls were not the only thing to undergo reconstruction, the small church which originally resided within the walls was intentionally burnt down in the 1830’s following its use as a hospital during a contagious disease outbreak. The church was rebuilt shortly after in a renaissance style. This modern church is not as impressive as the large Transfiguracio located just down the hill but is well worth a look around as it houses some paintings and artworks of local and religious importance, inside the church you’ll also find a small religious museum as well as displays of local interest and a scale model reproduction of the layout of the Santuaride Sant Salvador and the Transfiguracio church below.
You don’t need to have a religious interest in the site to enjoy a visit to the Santuari, most people climb the 180 steps from the town below to admire the view, visitors can look down upon the pale terracotta houses and winding streets of Arta and look out over acres of farm land and rolling hills all the way to the coast and the sea off the eastern coast of Mallorca.
The 180 steps leading up to the Santuari are not too arduous being individually shallow and well shaded. Upon reaching the walls you will find pleasant shady courtyards with benches arranged in scenic spots, perfect if you need to get your breath back. Plenty of people choose to picnic upon those benches and children seem happy to amuse themselves clambering along the battlements and watch towers. You’ll also find a café/restaurant located within the Santuari grounds with a cosy interior and several tables on an outside terrace. They serve drinks, icecreams and snacks as well as a limited tapas menu, it’s a good spot to take a refreshment break or have a light lunch.
The Santuari is easy to find as it stands tall above the rest of the town, it’s also well signposted through the town for pedestrians and drivers alike. You can access the Santuari by road and there is parking at the top although it may become crowded in peak summer. The walkways around the battlements have also been made wheelchair friendly, stone slopes have been put in where there were only steps before although do take care along the walls as some of the pathways get a little narrow and precarious.
The Santuari is open to visitors 8am - 8pm in summer and 8am – 6pm in the winter months.
Read more about the town of Arta.