Santuari de Lluc, in the north-western Mallorcan municipality of Escorca, is a monastery and sanctuary dating back to the 13th century that draws visitors from all over the world.
Legend has it that its site marks the discovery of a statue of the Virgin Mary by a Mallorcan shepherd called Lluc in the 13th century – although the area was believed to have been a place of pilgrimage as far back as Roman times, when it was known as a lucus, or holy forest.
Lluc found the statue of Our Lady of Santa Maria de Lluc amongst rocks in a mountain stream. It was taken to the nearby Church of Sant Pere d’Escorca, but when people came to visit it the next day it had disappeared and was mysteriously found back in the stream where Lluc had originally discovered it.
The decision was taken to leave it there and build a chapel on the site and the Santuari de Lluc was born.
The date of the miracle of the statue is not known but there are references to the Chapel of Santa Maria de Lluc going back to 1268 and further records dated 1273 show huge numbers of pilgrims coming to worship at the statue.
Today thousands upon thousands of visitors and pilgrims are drawn to Santuari de Lluc each year, all marvelling at the breathtaking scenery, the site’s deep religious significance and the examples of so much Mallorcan history and culture.
It is possible to tread the same path (Cami Vell de LLuc) taken by those early pilgrims to worship at the statue and see the stone monuments dedicated to the miracle.
Santuari de Lluc became the parish church of the municipality in 1456 and in that year Pope Callixtus III gave the sanctuary permission to start a collegiate church, leading to the establishment of the College of Secular Presbyterians – a community living like monks and led by a prior.
Each morning a choir of boys and girls sing a salve, or special song, to Our Lady – a tradition going back to the 15th century. They are from the choir school, Escolania de Lluc, at the sanctuary and they are known as Els Blauets – a reference to the distinctive blue cassocks they wear.
In the late 16th Century shelters, known as Els Porxets, were added to provide stables and rooms for the pilgrims and a fountain was put up in Placa dels Peregrins as a drinking trough. The present church was built between 1622 and 1691.
A hostel was added towards the end of the 19th century and this was extended in 1953, the same year that baroque decoration of the church was completed and the Path of the Rosary Mysteries was created, leading to a cross at the top of a hill known as Pujol de la Trobada.
Lluc Museum was opened in 1953 and a new Shrine of Our Lady followed in 1962. Lluc Botanical Gardens, opened in 1956 were re-organised and extended from 1993-2001 and they provide comprehensive examples of the plants so typical of the Balearic Islands, as well as aromatic and medicinal plants found in Mallorca.
There are daily masses and, befitting a spiritual retreat, at Santuari de Lluc you can practice exercises or prayers – as an individual or in groups – throughout the year. You can stay in single or double rooms, like those once used by monks, that offer the chance to drink in the peacefulness of the area, its scents and its scenery.
Santuari de LLuc is also popular as a tourist attraction, offering the opportunity to venture inside the beautiful Basilica of Our Lady of Lluc – with its feel of a building made of gold – and enter the Shrine of Our Lady.
The church has breathtaking decor reflecting a history dating back to the 17th Century and there’s more culture, history and archaeology to see in Lluc Museum, with its seven exhibition rooms.
And traditional Mallorcan food is served at the Santuari, too. Anything from a sandwich, to a barbecue, paella, set meals or dining a la carte in one of the restaurants – the choice is yours. There’s also a souvenir shop – and even a bakery.
The Santuari can also be used as a base from which to explore the Tramuntana Mountains, with some of the best peaks on the Island, seek out caves, or follow the old pilgrim trails linking the sanctuary with Inca and Pollença.
Santuary de Lluc is a ‘must visit’ addition to your Mallorcan itinerary – extremely fulfilling from a spiritual and tourism point of view.