IMPROVEMENT works at Lluc monastery will be completed next month, bringing to an end a 2-year reform programme which has cost the Balearic government in the region of 2.5 million euros.

The monastery, a site visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists and Christians each year, has undergone a major overhaul. Not only did the facilities for pilgrims need to be modernised but if the application to UNESCO for the Tramuntana mountains to be listed as a World Heritage Site is successful, numbers are expected to increase significantly.

One of the first and most immediately visible aspects of the modernisation and upgrade programme is the entrance area to the monastery in which the government has invested 470'000 euros. In fact, workmen are still laying flagstones on the roadway and pavement which lead up to the main building, constructing a one-metre high Majorcan-style dry stone wall, and erecting lampposts and public seating.

This most recent work is in addition to the reform of the Plaza de los Peregrinos which was completed in 2009 and in which electric cabling was laid underground, access barriers removed and new terracing superimposed on the old.

An important feature of the expansion and reform of Lluc monastery is the Tramuntana mountain museum and educational centre which even prior to its completion has had a chaotic history. Works on the building were stopped in 2009 after one of the companies involved in the construction went into receivership. The company was rescued by the Balearic government in April this year and it is now forecast that the centre will be complete next month at a final cost of over 1'080'000 euros.

There is still a question mark however, over the reform of the reception area which was put on hold in June this year as the development programme began to feel the squeeze of government cuts.

It proved of little use when in December last year, the costs of the work were brought down by half a million euros, because the Lluc Monastery Foundation, responsible for financing the project, couldn't find the 1.5 million which was needed to finalise the works.

As well as the intensive modernisation programme that has been going on at the monastery, reforms have also been necessary on the Inca to Lluc road which is the main access to the municipality of Escorca in which the sanctuary lies. Works have been continuing on the road since April this year, needing a separate 2.3 million euros from the Balearic government. Around 9'000 vehicles use the road each day and the route had long been in need of widening.

Lluc Monastery Director, Sebastià Sureda said yesterday that even though accommodation at the monastery is fully booked at the moment, the modernisation is a most welcome addition to help maintain what he described as the “bonanza” all year round.