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Sand, sea, Sangria and….sacred springs: In search of Ibiza’s spring heritage

Ibiza is perhaps not the first place people think about when they think about ancient monuments but an antiquarian’s visit will be repaid by Phoenician sites, such as the necropolis, underground churches and cave shrines. To this one can add the Island’s unique water heritage: pous and fonts.

The island is rich in such sites, the pous appear to be artesian in construction, with water extracted via buckets from deep shafts, whereas the fonts are mainly covered spring heads and as such the water can be easily accessed.  Architecturally both are similar being surmounted by dome like structures, although the term chapel is more often used for the fonts.

There would appear to many hundred sites, although I never seen an official document that describes them all, the best sources being tourist maps (yes they do note them although sometimes not very accurately) and some websites mainly of course in Catalan or Spanish. I am going to restrict myself to six of the most notable, interesting or easiest to find, a give an overview

Unlike England, the wells appear to remain a focal point to village activities, these are Pagesa and are dancers held usually around patronal days at the wells in a traditional Catalan fashion but with Castonellas rather than casternets and the men doing all the work. I was privileged to see one of these dances at the picturesque Font des Verger, a beautiful well chapel with clear water. It was certainly easier to find it on the festival day as lights guided us down, one the earlier day we couldn’t find it! Beyond the dances little else is clear regarding legends or folklore, Pou de Gatzara from Santa Gertrudis de Fruitera is said to frighten horses and perhaps is haunted.  Pou de Lleo, which has given its name to a delightful bay was said to have healing waters, but I could not find it. Aging the sites is difficult as well, Font de Peralta, a delightful pinky-red well house set beside a rather busy road is said to be dating from the 1600s. The water arises beneath the road surface and is reached by steps Sant Rafal’s Pou de Forada is a covered well with a large front opening. The two stone basins beneath it set there for animals are said to be old olive mills of Punic-Roman time Similarly the long basin at Rou Roig is said to be a Roman Sarcophagus but it is doubted by some. Certainly the most picturesque well is found close to one of the island’s most picturesque towns, the Font de Balafia arises at the base of a cave and has been enclosed in a large chapel well house with steps down to its water. A magical and special place and if you visit only one well in Ibiza visit this one!