Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Monte Toro–Menorca

Many believe that Monte Toro pinpoints the spiritual centre of Menorca, where there has been a shrine and place of pilgrimage since the 13th century. Legend has it that Monte Toro, or El Toro as it is referred to by the locals, takes its name from a bull (el toro) which led a group of monks to a statue of the Virgin Mary in the rock face. However, some say the peak’s name is more likely to have come from the Moors inhabitation of the island, evolving from the Arabic words ‘al tor’, meaning high place or mountain, while others say the name Toro actually comes from ‘tor’, of pre-roman origin, like the Catalan word ‘turó’ meaning hill.

It is believed that the peak was first inhabited sometime in the 15th century when a watchtower was constructed at its highest point. A defence tower was later added to the top of the ancient watchtower in 1558. In the 17th century, around 1670, Augustinian monks built a monastery and stayed there until 1835, when all church property was confiscated. The monastery was destroyed a century later during the Spanish Civil War, and as part of the considerable restoration that took place in the 1940s, remains of the original building can still be seen.

More recently, the site has been divided between a convent and an army station, before being managed by the Franciscan Sisters, and is still an observation area. Being the island’s highest point also means the Sanctuary has had to share the summit with communication masts, transmitters and satellites for TV, radio and mobile phones which are prominent at the entrance, but just pass by, ignore them and enjoy the views…!

The imposing statue of ‘Jesus of the Sacred Heart’, with his arms outstretched to bless the Menorcans who died in the Spanish Moroccan wars of the early 20th century, stands in front of the Sanctuary.

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