One of Menorca’s most spectacular landmarks is Mount Toro, at 342m (1122ft) above sea level, the island’s highest peak. While not as high as Ben Nevis (1344m) or Carn Eige (1183m) it can be seen from almost everywhere on the island and provides a breathtaking, panoramic view of Menorca and the seas around it.
But, apart from the stunning views, this mountain has played a major part in the island’s spiritual history giving you even more reasons to visit it during your summer vacation.
The Stuff of Legends
As with many high peaks, Mount Toro has long been revered as a holy site and as a place of pilgrimage. Some sources say that the mountain’s name and spiritual importance derive from the legend of the Verge del Toro in which a bull revealed himself to some monks and led them to depiction of the Virgin Mary in a cave close to the summit. However, some claim that the name originates from the Moslem occupation of the Island as “al tor” in Arabic means a high place. Another school of thought places the name’s origin even further back to pre-Roman empire times as, in ancient Catalonian “turo” means hill.
Whatever the origin of the name, it is believed the summit was first used as a “lookout” point when a watchtower was built in the 15th century and later expanded in 1558 with the addition of fortifications. The hill’s religious affiliation began with a monastery constructed by Augustinian monks in 1670. During the Spanish Civil War, the monastery was severely damaged and abandoned. Following extensive reconstruction work, the site was chosen for a Franciscan convent. Today, apart from the convent and an army observation post, the summit is shared by a small restaurant, a gift shop and (unfortunately) the inevitable cellular and communications towers.
At the Top
Perhaps the immediate reason for taking the trip up Mount Toro during your summer vacation is the stunning panoramic views that you have over the entire island. Whilst the words of the musical, “On a clear day, you can see forever”, may not strictly apply, you do get a mind blowing view across the Mediterranean and even the mountain peaks of Menorca’s sister island, Mallorca.
Sanctuary of the Virgin of El Toro (Santuario de la Virgen del Toro)
Built around the cave where the image of the Virgin Mary was supposed to have been found, the Sanctuary’s walls are decorated with beautiful tapestries. Of special interest is the ornate baroque-style altar with a wooden statue of the La Verge del Toro. There are also five small vaulted chambers, one of which is the entrance to the legendary cave and the others are used for prayer and contemplation. Many people find this a peaceful and serene spot where they can sit back and take the time to relax. If you’re taking your summer vacation in May, make sure to be there for the Festival of the Verge del Toro on the first Sunday of the month.
Jesus of the Sacred Heart
Just outside of the sanctuary is a large statue of Jesus with open arms. The statue was erected after the Spanish Civil War and commemorates all the Menorcans who died in Spain’s civil war.
As well as the statue there are two other monuments. One is for the Menorcans who emigrated to French Algiers from 1830 – 1963 and the other, just inside of the sanctuary’s courtyard, commemorates Menorca’s people who fled to Florida in search of a better life in the 18th century.
You can get to the top of the hill by car or tour bus (take the M-13 highway). You can also take the ramblers’ path that follows the road if you prefer to stretch your legs.
Brenda Jaaback, Managing Director of Bartle Holidays, is a renowned Menorca expert. From its history to its people and from its wildlife to its cuisine – no secret of the island remains hidden to her. If you're planning a summer vacation, Brenda personally selects the finest properties for her clients and is the go-to person for anyone planning a relaxing holiday in Menorca. Bartle Holidays makes no warranty as to the accuracy of information contained in this article and excludes any liability of any kind for the information.
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