Minorca is situated in the centre of the western Mediterranean, being the same distance from the Iberia Peninsula and Sardinia; and from Languedoc and Algeria.
It is the most easterly and northerly of the Balearic archipelago and together with its 702 square kilometres and 216 kilometres of coastline it is (after Majorca) the second largest Balearic Island.
The islands shape resembles that of a kidney or bean. The longest length runs between Cabo de la Mola on the eastern coast and Cabo de Bajolí on the western side: some 53km.
The island is relatively flat and its highest points are located in the middle: El Toro (358m), S’Esclusa (267m) and Santa Águeda (260m). However the island has a diverse variety of landscapes, including lagoons, marshes, small springs, undulating hills and deep gorges.
The island’s coastline offers a multitude of safe anchorage areas and the islands crown is her magnificent port of Maó, the second largest natural port in the world. There is a maritime ode that says, “June, July, August and the Port of Maò are the best harbours in the Mediterranean”. From a geological point of view the island is clearly divided in two areas, best separated by the central spiral road running between Maò and Ciutadella. There is the Tramontana range to the north and the Es Migjorn to the south.
The northern Tramontana range has three different sub-areas. The first, situated within the north of Maó, Es Mercadal and Ferreries is formed by primary materials with a slate, sandstone quartz appearance. Its low level coast is rocky and irregular. The second sub-area is composed of materials from the lower Triassic, red and yellowish sandstone quartz type and clay sediments at the deeper layers. There are small rocky formations with thick vegetation and its coasts are mainly high cliffs. The third, ranging from the north of Alaior and part of the land between Ciutadella and Ferreries, holds Jurassic platforms occupied by forest extensions and rocky coastlines.
The southern area is known as Es Migjorn. This region is composed of Miocene limestone commonly named “mares”. Its landscape is quite even despite the number of gorges that cross the Miocene platform leading out to coves and beaches.
HISTORY AND DATES:
Minorca’s strategic geographical location has been the reason for her many occupations. We don’t know who the first inhabitants of the Bronze Age were or where they came from, but their culture known as Pretalayotic, is similar to that of their contemporise from Majorca, Languedoc and Sardinia. Around the year 1600 B.C mysterious megalithic constructions were erected (“navetas”, “taulas”, and “talayots”) and settlements were surrounded by walls made of huge stone slabs.
After 450 B.C., the Greeks, the Punics, the Iberians– left their foot prints on the island, as Minorcawas soon to become an important geographical stop for the sea travel and trade routes.
In the year 123 B.C the Romans arrived followed by the Vandals and the Byzantines. We know, thanks to the writings of the Bishop Severo in the year 417 that Christianity was at this time imposed on the island. The 6th century witnessed the building of Paleochristian churches in areas always close to the coast.
After some sporadic raids, the Muslims set foot on the island in the year 903, until 1287 whenAlfonso 3rd King of Aragón regained the island. The island territories were inhabited by people mainly from Catalonia who introduced the Catalan language and culture.
During the 16th century Minorca suffered terrible attacks from the Ottoman fleets who destroyed the port towns of Maó (1535) and Ciutadella (1558); Due to Spains involvement in the War of Succession, Minorca was handed over to the British by the Utrecht Treaty (1712).
The 18th century is marked for the conquering between the British, French and Spanish, until1802, when, by the Amiens Treaty, the island is finally returned to the Spanish Sovereignty. The influences from these occupations have marked the Minorcan character, customs, landscape, traditions and more so it has left an important cultural patrimony.
In chronological order, these are the most outstanding dates of Minorca’s history:
3000-1600 B.C: Pretalayotic era( megalithic sepulchres and “naveta” chambers)
1600-123 B.C: Talayotic culture (burial “navetas”, talayots, “taulas” and stone wall settlements)
450 B.C: Punic, Greek and Iberian influences.
205 B.C: General Magón (Hannibal’s brother) baptises the main town as Maò
123 B.C: Romans conquer and Minorca is turned into part of the Hispania Citerior Province.
417: Bishop Severo’s writings.
454-484: The reign of the Vandals.
534: The Byzantine Empire; Paleochristian churches are built.
707-902: Sporadic raids by Muslims.
903: Muslim conquering; Minorca forms part of the Cordoba Caliphate.
1287: The conquering by Alfonso 3rd King of Aragón and Catalonia.
1343-1515: Walls and defence turrets are built under the Crown of Aragón.
1535: Red beard, the pirate plunders Maó.
1554: The beginning of the works on San Felipe Castle.
1558: Ciutadella is attacked by the Turks.
1706-1712: War of Succession and the Treaty of Utrecht; Minorca is handed over to the British.
1722: Maó is proclaimed capital of the island under the rule of the Governor Kane.
1756-1763: French conquering lead by the Duke Richelieu.
1763-1781: Second British dominion.
1782-1798: The Duke of Crillón recovers the island for Spain.
1798-1802: Third and last British dominion.1802: Amiens Treaty; Minorca is returned to the Spanish Crown.
1840: The beginning of the works on La Mola fortress.
1886: The first shoe factories open up in Ciutadella.
1892: The first electrical Balearic power station starts working in Maó.
1898: The Cuba crisis interrupts the shoe export trade.
1936: Minorca remains republican during the Spanish Civil War.
1953: The arrival of the first charter flight from London. It marks the start of commercial tourism.
1983: Autonomic Statutes of the Balearic Islands.
1986: The Linguistic standardization law is approved.
1991: Law for the protection of Natural Spaces of Special Interest (A.N.E.I.)
1993: Minorca is declared a Biosphere reserve by the U.N.E.S.C.O.
1996: Approval of the new Insular Territorial Plan.