La Lonja in Palma de Mallorca
The Gothic maritime trading exchange “La Lonja” is another jewel among the historic buildings in the old town of the real estate hotspot Palma de Mallorca. In 1426, the merchants’ guild commissioned the Gothic master builder and sculptor Guillem Sagrera with its construction. The man had excellent references, as he had already designed the “Mirador” portal of the cathedral in Palma, from which one has a wide view over the sea.
The artist and stonemason Sagrera was from Felanitx and knew how to work the best sandstone the island could offer, a material quarried in the neighbouring municipality of Santanyí. It is undisputed among experts and art historians that the man from the east of the island, who had previously worked on the church of Saint John in Perpignan, France, was able to realise his consummate skill as an architect thanks to the commission from the merchants. What’s more, the Lonja in Palma is considered the last great work of Gothic architecture on Mallorca.
Even Emperor Charles V was enthusiastic about “La Lonja”
Behind the weathered wooden gate, a cool palm grove of stone opens up. Six columns divide the rectangular floor plan of the lonja, which ultimately consists of a single, large hall. The columns – without chapter or base – embody the trunks of the “palms”. They taper in a spiral, sometimes clockwise, sometimes counterclockwise. The palms strive upwards, open and unfold and merge into the vault that supports the roof. From 2008 to 2013, the building was renovated for a total of 2,500,000 euros. Among other things, the roof was restored to its flat original state as an accessible terrace.
Incidentally, when Emperor Charles V visited Palma in 1541, he thought the Lonja was a church. When his majesty was informed of his error, the ruler was delighted. “Then it belongs to me,” he is said to have said about the Lonja. For as a public administrative building for trade, it was part of the emperor’s crown estate. Today, the building belongs to the Balearic government, which uses it mainly for art exhibitions or official acts. Since 2016, the Lonja has been open to everyone from Tuesdays to Saturdays from 11 am to 2 pm and 5 pm to 9 pm, as long as an exhibition is taking place there. Guided tours are also organised, by appointment only. More info at www.visitpalma.cat
Of course, the right Minkner & Partner tip is not far away: the restaurant “La Bóveda” diagonally opposite is a real tapa classic. Be there in good time, it fills up quickly in the evening.