Natural environment of the garden
Raixa is located in the foothills of the Tramuntana mountain range, Serra de Tramuntana, which has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO under the Cultural Landscape category.
Two of the elements of the Serra de Tramuntana that possess the Exceptional Universal Value which UNESCO demands in order to declare a site World Heritage stand out from the rest: the dry stone constructions and the water channelling systems.
The cultural landscape of the Serra the Tramuntana is an outstanding example of the traditional agricultural image of the Mediterranean area. It has a peculiar combination of hydraulic systems applied to irrigation (of Islamic origin), and olive and vine cultivation systems, whose origin is Christian. From this ancestral combination an evocative landscape emerged, a perfect symbiosis between man and nature.
The landscape is characterized by the presence of the dry-stone terraces on the slopes, designed for the cultivation of the olive tree as well as for the extraction, channelling and piping water towards areas of crops, ochards, vegetable gardens and irrigation, and for the establishing of an agricultural system based on the use of dry-stone construction technique and sustainable use of the land.
Historical background of the garden
The origins of Raixa date back to an Islamic farmstead of which only the place-name remains. After the conquest of Majorca by King James I of Aragón in 1229, these lands were granted to the count of Ampurias. During the Middle Ages, the property was owned by the Sureda de Sant Martí and Safortesa-Tagamanent families. The latter carried out a reconstruction at the beginning of the 16th century. The vault of the chapel and the porch of the courtyard are from that period.
It is important to mention the attack and burning of the house in 1522 by the followers of “las Germanías”, who supported the social struggles, because the owner at the time, Pere-Joan Safortesa i Descatlar supported the royal cause. During the last refurbishment of the house, traces from the fire have been discovered in a gothic window inside the main room.
The first count of Montenegro, Ramon Despuig i Rocaberti, purchased Raixa on the 18th of June 1660, and from that time onwards, Raixa became the emblematic family estate. In the 18th century the houses were renovated and extended by the successive counts, as it was customary during the Baroque period. Dating from that time are the leisure gardens “les Llimoneres”, “La Gruta” and “Hort Nou”, already documented in 1740.
The protagonists of the last transformation were the brothers Joan and Antoni Despuig i Dameto. The first (Palma, 1735-1813) was the 4th Count of Montenegro and 7th of Montoro. The second, Antoni, (Palma, 1745 – Lucca, 1813) pursued an ambitious ecclesiastic career which culminated with his appointment as Cardinal by the Pope Pius VII in 1803.
Cardinal Despuig is one of the most important personalities of the Enlightenment in Majorca. He was distinguished both as a patron and as a collector of art and antiques as a result of his long stays in Italy. He sponsored excavations in the grounds of Ariccia, near Rome, between 1787 and 1796, and with the objects brought to light and some others acquired by him, he created a Museum of classical sculpture that he installed in Raixa. The sculptors Pascual Cortes, Luis Melis and Francesco Lazzarini worked there. Nowadays part of this collection is on display at the Bellver castle in Palma.
The house and the reform projects
Antoni Despuig, together with his brother the count, who was the owner of Raixa, wanted to complete a reform that would transform the houses into a monumental villa of neoclassical style. At the beginning of the last decade of the 18th century, a very ambitious project, which was never carried out, was commissioned to the Spanish architect trained in Rome, Eusebio María de Ibarreche. Later, in 1802, the architect Giovanni Lazzarini was hired for a second project, partially known today. The final reform was entrusted to the master builder Tomàs Abrines i Beltran (Palma, 1775-1854), contracted by the cardinal in 1806. The following year the cardinal had to go to Italy to support the Pope Pius VII, harassed by Napoleon. Despuig did not return to Majorca and died in Lucca (Tuscany) on May 2nd, 1813.
Consequently, the remodelling of Raixa, the organisation of the Museum and other projects remained under the guidance of Ramón and Joan Despuig i Safortesa, beloved nephews of the cardinal. From the present house, it is worth mentioning the south gallery, which was built around 1808. From the rest of the building, the courtyard is to be highlighted, around which the characteristic estate dependencies, such as the oil mill, the stables, the sharecroppers dwelling, etc., are distributed. A special mention must be made of the room where, according to tradition, Santa Catalina Tomàs stayed (Valldemossa,1531 – Palma,1574) when as a young girl she was part of the Safortesa-Tagamanent domestic service. Her beatification took place in Rome in 1792 as a result of the efforts made by Cardinal Despuig.
Description of the Garden
Raixa is specially well-known because of the gardens that surround the house and reach over the southern slopes of sa Muntanyeta. At the bottom there are the orchards, the Garden of Oranges, the Loggia garden, with a fountain in the middle, and the entrance garden with a small pond. An interesting part of the whole is the entrance gate, built in 1898, which bears the coat of arms of count Ramon Despuig i Fortuny, who sold Raixa to the entrepeneur Antoni Jaume in 1910.
The upper gardens were structured around the monumental staircase dedicated to the god Apollo and perhaps to four muses linked with poetry. Further on, a landscaped path leads to faux ruins (folly) , a great pond, a man-made grotto, a historicist pavilion, a small hermitage and a neoclassical viewpoint located at the highest point, which dates back to 1854. Thanks to the acquisition of the water from the fountain of Pastoritx (Valldemossa) in 1807, the creation of these gardens was accomplished and the reservoir designed by the engineer Francisco Rigaud de Tirgalle (1753) was transformed into the present irrigation water reservoir, that is 83 meters long, 17 wide and 7.5 deep. From the paths and viewpoints in the upper parts of the garden, the scenery of the house and the surrounding landscape are of great beauty.
Brief description of the Interpretation Centre/Museum
Visitors’ Reception Centre of Raixa- Serra de Tramuntana
Presents the Serra de Tramuntana Natural Site and the Raixa Estate as key centres to understand Majorca, and specially, to understand the value and the potential of one of its most unique cultural landscapes as well as its recent history, listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site.