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The small town of Petra would be considered barely worth a mention were it not for one individual that was born and lived here over 300 years ago. The individual in question however, just so happens to be Mallorca’s most famous son, Father Juniper Serra. So it follows on that the majority of attractions to be found here are focused towards this mans memory and various other religious themes that are rooted in the town.
As the visitor explores the town, they will come across a range of monuments and buildings dedicated to Father Serra. To understand just how important he is considered, one need only look to Washington D.C to see the busts of famous people of the United States of America, of which Father Juniper Serra is included.
His role as a Christian Missionary was significant in Mexico, and then later on in California, where several established missions grew into America’s largest cities, notably San Diego and San Francisco. Thus the development of such civilisations traditionally around the Christian faith has ensured that Father Serra is remembered throughout his home town. This remembrance is exemplified in the wide range of attractions that are dedicated to his memory.
The house where Juniper Serra was born in 1713 is available to visit and is situated in an area known as Barracar Alt, the oldest part of the town. The arrangement of this two story house is typical of those built during this period with many of its original features still intact. These include the stone floor that is representative of a farmhouse during this age, in addition to the stone archway that divides the house into two main rooms. As if to emphasise the level of detail retained, the house contains utensils dating back to the same era as well as the press where the wine was made.
For those that wish to further explore the life of Father Serra, the museum is sure to be worth a visit. Whilst the modest size of the building is actually more inline with that of a house, the ground floor hosts materials showing the life and work of the blessed friar. Information of the American territories that he visited and evangelised is available in documents and other graphic forms.
The parish church of Sant Pere is an interesting building, not least for its uniformity in style and construction. Gothic in its appearance, the church was built in the 16th Century and restored at different times in the centuries that were to follow. As you may expect, the church has links with Father Serra; illustrated none more so then in the very fact he was baptised here. To commemorate this, a plaque exists outside the church which describes him as an "explorer missionary hero civiliser".
For those that wish to explore further a field from the confines of Father Serras influence, then the monastery of Bonany is highly recommended. At a distance of 2.5 km from Petra, and situated 317m high up over the plain below stands the small Ermita de Nostra Senyora de Bonany.
Built in 1604, the chapel was constructed in order to house the sacred image of "our lady", or locally referred to as Madonna. An important figure to locals, our lady had been hidden away by Christians during the Islamic occupation for over 800 years. Indeed, legend has it that only a few years after the chapel was built, a long period of drought commenced in 1609.
The locals thus gathered here and prayed to a glorious effigy of the Madonna dating as far back as the 8th Century. This faithful worship of Madonna was considered a huge success since folklore suggests she brought heavy rains to the area. This resulted in a bountiful harvest for that year, or, as the locals would say "bon any" which is how the sanctuary took its name. The story is needless to say, available in greater detail at the monastery entrance. On the Tuesday following Easter day, the local community still make the annual pilgrimage to the chapel to worship our lady.
Owing to its rich cultural and religious heritage, there are a range of festivals that take place each year at Petra. All are equally as significant and are a cause of enthusiastic celebration for the locals. To celebrate Father Juniper Serra, an annual feast takes place on the third Sunday of September every year followed by a procession of floats and floral offerings.
The Saturday before this festival, a fair takes place in the town. Additional festivals of note include the Santa Praxedis which takes place on the 21st of July. This festival is often referred to as "Las Completas" and involves the town council embarking on a procession to the church accompanied by the "demons" and the bagpipers. Then the hymn to the Patron Saint is sung.
Every Wednesday sees the market take place in the Plaça Ramon Llull. This provides the visitor with the opportunities to purchase local produce.
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