The Sunday visits to see the restoration work being carried out on the 18th century British naval hospital on Isla del Rey in Mahón harbour have become so popular that, throughout the summer season, two special trips have been organised by the Friends of the Isla del Rey (Amics de l’Illa de l’Hospital) in conjunction with the Yellow Catamarans.
In addition to the little boat that leaves from Moll de Fontanilles, Es Castell every Sunday morning to take the voluntary working party and some visitors to the island, more people will now be able to wander around the old hospital and its grounds, see the painstaking renovation work being carried out and learn more about this fascinating piece of Menorcan-British history. The Yellow Catamaran will depart from Mahón harbour, near the ferry terminal, at 08.45 hours and will return at around 11.30 hours. The price for adults is €5, children free. Once on the Isla del Rey, there will be a tour of hospital building lasting about an hour and a half, followed by a traditional Menorcan breakfast and group photograph which will be posted onto the Friends of the Isla del Rey website.
Mongofre Nou may not be especially prepossessing from the outside, but don’t be fooled. Once inside, the house holds a treasure trove of delightfully eclectic items, collected by its late owner Fernando Rubió Tudurí, which members of the Menorca Britannia Association were privileged to see on a recent private visit to the estate.
Original paintings by Chiesa, Carles, Domingo and Pruna hang on the walls of the various reception rooms; trophies from big game hunting (one of Rubió’s main passions) are in evidence throughout and range from a mounted rhinoceros’s head to an elephants footconverted into an ashtray; a large coffee table holds a collection of lovely shells; photographs and ornaments jostle for position on any horizontal surface; dressers hold dinner services and a selection of Chinese cups and saucers; Roman amphorae from local archaeological digs are displayed in the hall; and the two libraries hold enough books to last the most avid reader a lifetime. Whilst none of the collections is particularly extensive, apart from the books, the items that Rubió selected are interesting or beautiful in themselves and although there are displays everywhere, the house still feels like a home and not a museum.
Lazaretto, the neo-classical jewel in Mahon Harbour, has opened its doors to the public for the first time this summer. From 1817, Lazaretto originally served as a quarantine island for eastern Spanish ports for 100 years. Today, it is still owned by the State Ministry of Health and used during the summer months as a holiday hotel for health workers. A tour around this fascinating building and its grounds is a step back in time and gives yet another insight into Menorca’s turbulent history of the 18th and 19th centuries involving both British and French occupation. The next visit is on Sunday 7 August departing from Calas Fonts, Es Castell at 18.00 hours. See below for details.
The name Lazaretto (correct spelling) is believed to have been derived from the Italian dialect of Nazareto after the Church of Santa Maria di Nazaret (English: Nazareth) at Genoa, Italy where the first ‘lazaret’ to be established was run from 1403 by the nuns. Another lazaret was later established in 1476 at Marseilles, France. There is no connection with Lazarus as has been popularly assumed. These Lazaretos (Spanish spelling) were essentially quarantine stations for the ‘plague’.
If the imposing and iconic Menorcan estate and farm of San Antoni or ‘Golden Farm’ overlooking Mahon harbour had a voice, it could recount the passage of a fascinating history, witnessed from its terrace throughout its long life.
The house commands stunning views over the port, the Isla del Rey and the town of Maó and was once one of the island’s biggest estates, covering 1,000 hectares, stretching from La Mola to Cala Mesquida to the power station and along the harbour. Although the original two-roomed building dates back to Arab times, maybe as far back as the late 12th century, the majority of the house was added during the 18th century, including the impressive Palladian style façade. Today, this certainly makes it one of the prominent symbols of British presence on Menorca.
Following an agreement between the State Ministry of Health and the Island Council of Menorca, the historic islet of Lazareto in Maó harbour is to be opened for the first time to the public for guided tours this summer (2011), a demand long voiced by local residents who felt aggrieved that they were unable to visit a place they consider part of their heritage.
From 1817 the islet was used as quarantine quarters for sailors arriving in Menorca who either had or were suspected of having an infectious disease and had to be isolated from the rest of the public.