Everyone who has been to Mallorca knows this scene. Shortly before landing at Mallorca you are greeted by the different coloured wheels of many mills. These are the first impression of the island. If Don Quixote had been mallorquian he would surely have completely depleted his resources.
Mills of mallorca go back to the Christian conquest in 1229. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries they were at their peak with about 1,000 scattered throughout the island. Most were built in the nineteenth century to extract water. The oldest was built in 1845 and is in the plain of Sant Jordi.
The mills of the area around the airport, called the Pla, draw water to irrigate the fields every day. Particularly in this part of the island, which because of its fertility has been called the “pantry of Mallorca”, the mills sometimes work by the piece.
Not only are there water extraction mills around Palma, but also and especially in the area of Santanyi, Campos, Sa Pobla and Muro.
Another widespread type of mill, yet older in origin is the windmill which was formerly used for grinding grain. We find them particularly in the towns of Llucmajor, Felanitx, Manacor and Porreres, but also near Palma, Santanyi and Campos.
This mill not only produced flour, but was also used to grind salt.
The typical construction of a windmill consists in part of a tower a good 10 meters high. At the top there is a paddle wheel. The flour mill has fewer but larger blades, while the water mill has narrower blades attached to a ring which has a single large tail coming out from it.
The number of pallets and wheel size has varied over the centuries and characterize the type of mill. On the top floor of the tower mill wheels crushed the grain and on the ground floor or, rather, in a flat construction, lived the miller.
But there is a third type: the windmill without sails, called blood mill, in which the wheel moves by being driven by an animal, usually a donkey. This is the most widespread type of mill on the island, especially needed in areas where there isn’t enough wind or the water is not abundant. Its performance is somewhat lower, but thanks to the simplicity of its use it is popular for the making of olive oil.
Some time ago the mills began to decline and lose their significance for agriculture, however their value to cultural heritage and as witness the events of the history of Mallorca is incalculable.
Today we see them as something normal and we are glad to see their coloured blades move with the wind, although many are still in ruins without blades or falling towers. Fortunately, an initiative created by the Consell de Mallorca in 1993, strives for the conservation of the mills. It is working to restore them to their former glory, 3keep craft making alive and encourage valuable studies and reports published for the protection and conservation of this important symbol of the island.