Valldemossa became famous after the composer and pianist Frederick Chopin and authoress Aurora Dupin - better known by her pen name of George Sand - spent the winter of 1838-1839 there
The first to attract people to Valldemossa is the fabulous scenery - a small, fertile, Mediterranean valley adorned with fruit trees, much like a well-tended garden contemplating the sea from a distance.
Up until a few centuries ago, this valley was a remote corner which Franciscan monks chose to escape from the world to pray. They built the monastery that we know today as the famous Cartuja de Valldemossa.
The place was kept secret up until the middle of the 19th century when the couple who embodied European romanticism, the French writer George Sand and Polish musician Frederick Chopin discovered it.
By this time, the monks had left the monastery and the couple took up temporary residence in some of the cold cells and so spent that winter. That is how a few months’ holiday turned into history.
Just one winter changed the life and history of Valldemossa. The sheer beauty that the couple of artists found in this remote, humble, mysterious place inspired George Sand to write the controversial book entitled A Winter in Mallorca and for Chopin to compose some of his intricate Preludes and Ballads.
The couple never returned to Mallorca after the winter they spent ‘between the sea and mountains, in a large abandoned monastery’ as Chopin wrote.
However, over the years their stay there turned into a passionate love story - she was a mature woman with two small children in the company of a young musical genius afflicted with tuberculosis, a common illness amongst artists at that time. This turned a visit to Valldemossa into a cultural as opposed to a religious pilgrimage for the many people who visit the Balearic Islands throughout the year.
Valldemossa is in the northern area of the island of Mallorca in the Sierra de Tramuntana. Although only a few kilometres from the island’s capital, Palma, it appears another world and living in a different era, especially during winter when the Mallorcan countryside is at its most splendid.
This is why there is a well-known saying that Valldemossa is the start of a romantic, Mallorcan journey, a journey that crosses the Tramuntana mountain range and takes us to other beautiful places such as Deiá and Sóller.
In spite of the changes over the years, whoever visits Valldemossa can still see countryside ‘covered in orange groves, palms and cypress trees’. That is how Chopin described it in a letter he wrote to a friend from his ghostly cell during the cold, damp winter he stayed there.
“My bed is in front of a window underneath a Moorish style piece of decoration. My old, broken down writing desk with a metal candelabra - a great luxury - and its tallow candle. I have everything I own here, the works of Bach, my manuscripts, my notes and a few other papers. Total calm reigns.”
Without a doubt, Valldemossa’s total calm influenced Chopin’s compositions.
George Sand would say: “The poetry of this monastery is driving me mad.” Throughout the 20th century, with its words, music and history, Valldemossa became a place of art as well as religion. A magical place set in one of the most beautiful tourist spots in the Balearic Islands.
For those people who prefer to avoid crowds of tourists or commercialised areas, I would recommend a visit to Valldemossa during the winter season. It doesn’t matter if it is raining, dull or foggy as between the sound of the fountains, the centuries old olive trees, the mighty carob trees and tall cypresses Valldemossa magically retains its warm, tranquil atmosphere.
That atmosphere that is so romantic and Mediterranean, poetic and humble that has been created from legend, history and the passing of time.
The monastery of Valldemossa
In spite of tourism, Valldemossa has lost none of its charm. With its narrow streets and stone-clad houses surrounded by mountains covered in olive, orange, fig trees and the occasional palm, Valldemossa is a delightful, romantic hideaway.
This is still one of those corners of the Mediterranean that is not a disappointment to anyone who comes to see it. The tree lined valley facing towards the sea makes this a perfect place for meditation and is a tribute to European culture, history and art.
The small monastery with its bell-tower stands out from the houses that lie on the hillside and it tells us how, in the cold winter of 1838, George Sand, her small children and her young companion Frederick Chopin, came here. They left Paris in search of a healthy and remote part of Mallorca and found their winter refuge in Valldemossa where they left us with their eternal words and music.