Published in the Majorca Daily Bulletin
Tuesday 5th May 2015
Photographs by RACHEL FOX
There is a whole world that lives in our mountains and I am not just talking about the sheep and goats. On first sight it is not easy to see the paths and small roads that encircle the hills and mountains nor the houses and small holdings that exist there. The hills are very much alive with the signs that many generations have worked the land with olive groves and used it for sport and recreation. It is the ambition of many home owners in the Soller Valley to own an ‘Olivar; this is a piece of mountain land with a small building on – often derelict. They change hands every year and the local estate agents are very busy explaining patiently that you cannot build on them or change them in any way. The temptation is for people to see these as opportunities to build a rural paradise and modernity is the name of the game. The rules say that you can renovate a derelict building but you can’t extend it no matter how much land comes with the plot. The local builders are very clever at making the most out of these buildings and soon they are mini palaces with tiny bedrooms and state of the art small kitchens. They are the venue s for some of the most exclusive summer parties in the Soller Valley and the journey to get to most of them is not for the faint hearted.
In addition to the allotments up the mountains there are fine buildings in isolated places that are used as retreats. The Yoga Ashrams visit every year and bring hundreds of people to the Soller Valley to recharge their batteries before they return to running the world again. The Creative Writing Courses are big business around here too and many writer’s blocks have been unblocked in the beauty of the Tramuntana. The Soller Valley is often to be credited on the flyleaf of a new book as the place a story found its inspiration. The cyclists, walkers and high adrenaline athletes find their way here and occasionally post videos on utube of what they have been up to. The canyoning from the underwater caves around our coastline is another popular way for people to test themselves and find inspiration for the next phase of their lives. So much goes on for so many in this remarkable place.
A hidden church – Sa Capelleta – on the road between Soller and Fornalutx got its moment this weekend. A writer – Joseph Morrell has written a book entitled ‘‘Sa Capelleta, Santuari de Santa Maria deS’Olivar Del Fennes’. This work describes the history of this hidden church which holds a huge amount of the history of this place. It was a favoured venue for the weddings of local people and was looked after by the priests that also ran the ecclesiastical centre built nearby. It was a place of retreat and training for the church until, as the priests retired, the place fell into a little neglect.
That has now changed with the arrival of the two nuns who are running the retreat centre and maintaining the church. This is a place worthy of a special visit
Take the road towards Lluch from the Monument roundabout in Soller and before you reach the turning for Fornalutx there is a sign to the right for ‘Santa Maria D’Olivar’. This is very off putting because it just looks like a cobbled land and not a road you can drive down. Proceed down the cobbles and very soon you come to a proper car park in the grounds of the ecclesiastical building. This was the place the priest used to live in and now will be home to the two Nuns – Sister Mary Magdalene and Sister Carmen Bernasser –
To set the scene I must say that I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the location and the church. Sa Capelleta looks like a gothic film creation. You imagine a generation of people creating this church with their bare hands without the use of tools or machinery. Inside the church the statues are arranged in the cave like interior with light coming in at angles to shine on the statues.
I recommend this place to you as a great outing and an unusual place. It is also one of the sites that Sollerics walk to from locations in Soller. There is a signpost back down to Soller for walkers and many of them have simply walked past this lovely place without realising the significance.
So much going on in the City of Soller and its villages but don’t forget the mountains – they really are alive in this place.