The "pedreres" of Menorca, the place where the pillars for the construction of our civilisation were forged!
Stone is one of the indisputable protagonists in the history of Menorca. We talk about the origins of some of the stones that we can see and visit today, which date back to the third millennium BC.
Whoever knows or has visited Menorca will have seen the drystone walls whose origin dates back to more than 2000 years B.C. It is believed that it was the first settlers of the island who, on finding an inhospitable place full of stones that could be inhabited, had the idea of dividing the land into plots, taking advantage of this raw material and making a large part of the territory suitable for cultivation. All these walls have served to divide the land into plots and to mark the boundaries between the estates in the Menorcan countryside.
Other important stone constructions are the prehistoric monuments (talayots, navetas, walls), animal huts, "llocs", churches, military constructions and fortresses, palaces, houses in the historic center, lighthouses, mills... buildings made of stone that exist on the island. Most of these Talayotic constructions and the dry walls in the Menorcan countryside are made of a stone known in Menorca as “piedra viva”, which is a dry, hard stone.
The other stone that we will dedicate more time to in this blog is “mares”, a calcareous stone, 99% of which is made up of marine fossil remains. It is easily eroded and has been a very important building material on the island throughout history, until cement began to be used well into the 20th century. The main advantage of this stone is that it is easy to handle, while its main disadvantages are that it absorbs humidity and erodes easily in bad weather. These disadvantages are solved by bleaching with lime, a very common and popular custom on the island, which allows the stone to be maintained and preserved.
"Whitewashing" was always a daily task, it was a necessity, as whitewashing coated the “mares” and gave it greater impermeability and hardness because it dried the stone from humidity. Lime also offered other advantages such as protection from the heat (making the house cooler in summer) and an excellent bactericide. Whitewashing was also done to the wooden beams that were put on the houses to keep them dry and safe from damp.
The quality and type of “mares” varies depending on where it comes from, for example, in the eastern area (Mahón) the “mares” has a finer grain and is somewhat harder. On the other hand, in Ciutadella, the western area, we find a more porous, medium-grained sandy loam.
When the “mares” was extracted from the quarry, two different products were produced:
1.- One was the well-known “Cantó de Marés”, which was the extracted block of stone that could be cut in different sizes, all the sizes that were necessary for any type of construction were cut:
- The "Redona de mares”, which was the largest block and generally used to build walls, palaces, columns, pillars and foundations if necessary. Its measurements are 60 long x 40 wide x 33 high (all in cm).
- The "Pedra" of sandstone, a block a little smaller than the "redona" and whose measurements are 60 long x 30 wide x 33 high (all in cm).
- The "Cantó de mares”, which was the narrower block (half the thickness of the redona) that was used to make normal houses, buoy houses... (most of the houses in the historic center are built with these "cantons de mares”. Its measurements are 60 long x 20 wide x 33 high (all in cm).
- The "Pedra de 15" of sandstone which measures 60 long x 15 wide x 33 high (all in cm). This is half as thick as the "pedra".
- The "Terç" de marés, which is half as thick as the "cantó", measures 60 long x 10 wide x 33 high (all in cm). This was a third (three times narrower) of the "cantó".
- The "Tabic" made of sandstone measures 60 in length x 7 in width x 33 in height (all in cm).
- The "Quart" made of sandstone, measuring 60 long x 5 wide x 33 high (all in cm). This one was to make it lighter, as it was placed on the wooden beams. It was what formed the floor of the upper floors and the ceilings below the tiles.
- Finally, the "Quint de mares”, which measures 60 long x 3 wide x 33 high (all in cm).
2.- The second product that came out was the "sauló" which is the residue of dust and gravel that was produced when the “mares” was extracted and which is sometimes mistakenly called "sand". This was used to grout and fill any gaps that remained between the pieces that had been laid.
As a result of the extraction of these stones, we find a very peculiar landscape. These are the so-called “mares” quarries, or "pedreres" in Menorcan. They are peculiar landscapes due to the shapes they offer and they are part of Menorca's ethnological heritage and a reference point for studying the customs and trades that were developed around these quarries.
In the "llocs" or farmhouses of Menorca, it was and still is very common to find a small quarry next to these buildings, from which the sandstone was obtained to build them. There are cases in which the quarry became the basement of the house. For the construction of the villages, the sandstone came from large quarries located in the outskirts, a clear example of which are the pedreres de s'Hostal. They are a must-see reference point. We can also find some quarries near prehistoric settlements where they extracted the material to build their monuments. The question of how our prehistoric ancestors extracted the stone is still unresolved. A clear example of one of these quarries is the one found in the village of Son Catlar.
There are currently more than 120 quarries catalogued, half a dozen of which are prehistoric and some of which are still active. Most of them are open-air quarries, although they can also be found underground (supposedly to make use of the topsoil for agriculture and livestock farming).
The majority of these quarries ceased to be used in the 1990s and their cessation of activity led some of them to become spaces for dumping rubble and others, such as "ses pedreres de s'hostal" in Ciutadella, to become a recreational and cultural space of reference, where concerts and different cultural events are held. Its visit (as we said before) is a must, it runs between gardens, a labyrinth built of "redones" of sandstone, a space for concerts with very good sound, a space for the recovery of birds... (some areas reach 40 meters deep) you have to see it to get the idea.
In 1994 a non-profit cultural association was born and named Líthica, whose main objective was to avoid the degradation and abandonment of the quarries. A well-known phrase of this association is the one that says: "The architecture of the “mares” is a journey through 25 centuries of history".
Ca s'Arader, is a building constructed with this "mares" stone and we love to recommend our friends and clients to visit "ses pedreres de s'hostal", a spectacular place worth seeing. If you come to Ca s'Arader, you will find us at www.casarader.com or email@example.com, we will show you how to get to this special place.
Ca s’Arader is named after Menorca’s artisan carpenters that used the wood from the indigenous wild olive tree to make all kinds of farming tools. In the olden days it was an essential role for the islands economy that was passed on from fathers to sons. Today, the few artisan carpenters or araders that are left, mostly make gates, tables, benches or stalls amongst other items.