Was there a medieval fair in Pollensa? | R.D.

In the year 1784, the great Palma-born admiral, Antoni Barceló i Pont de la Terra, was bombarding Algiers for the second time in two years and Friar Juniper Serra died at the San Carlos Mission in Carmel, California. The island that they had left, one temporarily, the other permanently, was in that year inhabited by 136,917 people.

According to one version anyway, as there is some scope for questioning the “stats” of the day. Pollensa, it was said, had 4,599 inhabitants; Inca 4,053. This would have made Pollensa the fifth largest place in Mallorca. Quite a flourishing village, you would think, and one with an island share of what were 128,694 sheep; 8,784 oxen and cows; 57,850 goats; and 36,999 pigs.

Also in that year, although it is sometimes reported as having been the following year, Antoni Despuig i Dameto produced his map of Mallorca. Cardinal Despuig’s map was the third great map of the island, the first having been that of Joan Binimelis in 1593 and the second the work of Vicenç Mut in 1683.

The cardinal was one of the great Mallorcan figures of the eighteenth century. With Barceló and Serra, he was arguably among the three greatest, his principal legacy nowadays being the work that he initiated at the Raixa finca in Bunyola. But there was also the map, which wasn’t solely a work of cartography. There was also an encyclopaedic element.

The cardinal sought to compile a census of the island. Questionnaires were sent to mayors and to rectors. In addition to populations, the cardinal was interested in finding out about agriculture and industry - the latter would have included the likes of ceramics and textiles.

For Pollensa, the cardinal noted that the land produced olive oil, wool and livestock. He also drew attention to the population - 1,100.

To say that there was some discrepancy with the other source is putting it mildly. The 4,599 population, I believe, was a number that one Jordi Puig i Modelell came up with. He was the regent of the Audiencia de Mallorca around that time - head of the court. The cardinal’s number is way out when compared with two other sources - those of Bishop Rubio Benedicto from five years previously (4,454) and of the Floridablanca Census of 1786-1787 (4,424).

There’s no mistaking the cardinal’s population number, as it is stated under a drawing of Pollensa that accompanied the map. Grand though his work was, there are reasonable grounds for questioning its accuracy, although no one doubts the fact that there was a fair and that it was held in November.

Many an article that outlines Pollensa’s history mentions there having been a fair from 1784 (at least), and the cardinal provides as good a source as anyone. However, the timing of the fair, according to the cardinal’s map, is not how it is otherwise understood. The map states “on the last Sundays of November”. Yet, the accepted version is as now - usually the second Sunday, or the fourth after the feast of Saint Luke.

This association with Saint Luke is significant in terms of what is taking place today - the Dijous Bo fair in Inca. The fourth Sunday after Luke was a day of rest for the Inca fairs, one of the reasons why there is a Thursday fair in Inca (Dijous Bo). It was a day of rest in Inca, but it wasn’t in Pollensa, and so there is much speculation that Pollensa’s fair was taking place long before 1784. Is it in fact roughly as old as Dijous Bo and Sineu’s fair and was it therefore one of the four great fairs of Majorca?

No definitive date exists as to when Dijous Bo started. For Sineu there is - 1318, even if this is subject to some debate. The fourth great fair, Llucmajor, dates from later - 1543. In both instances, the granting of royal privilege is unquestioned - Jaume II for Sineu and Carlos V, the Holy Roman Emperor, for Llucmajor. The Inca fairs are mediaeval in origin, but there is no certainty as to when they started and so nor is there a record of royal privilege. The same goes for Pollensa.

As noted in the chronicles of one Sister Clara Andreu i Malferit at the turn of the nineteenth century, the timing of Dijous Bo was linked to the fair in Pollensa. The unanswered question is how long this link had existed. But it does reinforce the speculation regarding the antiquity of the Pollensa fair.

Cardinal Despuig was way out with his population figure, one that would cast doubt on justification for a fair. The other sources, however, show that in Mallorca’s “part forana” (away from Palma), Pollensa was larger than Inca and Sineu but behind Manacor and Felanitx (neither of which had fairs at that time) and Llucmajor.

Moreover, Pollensa has long been known for its lamb and for its textiles.

The Cardinal referred to wool and livestock, while the animal census had all those sheep.
A mediaeval fair in Pollensa? Possibly there was.