HISTORIC ASPECTS OF THE CAVES OF ARTA
With its large entrance, the cave has been known about since pre-historic times, although the earliest documented visits date back to the 16th century. The first written document about this cave is by the Mallorcan historian and geographer, Joan Binimelis, who mentions it in his work "Historía General del Regne de Mallorca” (General History of the Kingdom of Mallorca), written around 1595. During the first half of the 19th century, the first detailed descriptions of the Coves d’Artá were printed: we will mention the text by Isidoro de Antillón (1815) and the descriptions published by Mallorcan scholars Joaquín M Bover (1836) and Antonio Cabrer (1840),
The first detailed plans of the cave were drawn up by Pere d’Alcantará Peña in 1862. They were then published several times over the following decades, including in the great work of Sebastián Gay and Baltasar Champsaur (1885) entitled "Album de las Cuevas de Artá y Manacor” (Album of the Caves of Artá and Manacor).
During the second half of the 19th century, the cave achieved a remarkable reputation on a European level due to the visits and descriptions of various people, including: German scientists H.A. Pagenstecher and R.W. Bunsen (1865), Archduke Ludwig Salvator of Austria (1884), and French travellers and explorers Gastón Vuillier (1888) and Edouard-Alfred Martel (1896).
The large entrance staircase was built in 1860 for Queen Isabella II of Spain’s visit to Mallorca, although she didn’t actually visit the cave. King Alfonso XIII visited the Caves of Artá in 1904.
From the 1960's, the Caves of Artá were part of the tourism phenomenon that took place in Mallorca, making a decisive contribution to the island’s nature-based tourism offer.
Bearing in mind the large size of the natural entrance to the cave which is visible from much of the surrounding area, some authors have based legends in the Caves of Artá which relate to their use as a shelter for the Muslim population after the Christian conquest of 1229.
Other legends are based on the existence of hermits in the cave. This would be the reason for the historic naming of the cave, which was once known as “Cave of the Hermitage” or ¨ Coves de s’Ermità¨.
Subsequently, this name lapsed into oblivion in favour of the name of the town near to which the cave is located. However, and despite the name that has prevailed, the Caves of Artá are today located in the municipality of Capdepera.
Apart from the cave's scientific relevance, its grandeur and aesthetic value have long enticed artists and authors. It is worth noting that the poem by the writer Miquel Costa i Llobera: in his book ¨ La deixa del geni grec¨ (1900), he set his legend of the priestess Nuredduna in the cave. This legend tells us about cultural exchanges in Mediterranean classical antiquity. Its inspired verses emphasise the timeless nature of the exceptional geological phenomenon of the Caves of Artà.
"Per un batec de l’ansia amb què ton cor expira daríem les centúries de calma que tenim"
“For one beat of the longing with which your heart expires, we would give the centuries of calm that we have”
La deixa del geni grec (1900)