Rabbit Island (Illa dels
King Island (Isla del Rey)
Hospital Island (Isla del Hospital)
THE KING ISLAND HOSPITAL FOUNDATION
THE FRIENDS OF THE HOSPITAL ISLAND ASSOCIATION
(Isla del Rey, Port of Mahon)
Apdo. de correos 777, Mahon
CHRONOLOGY – HISTORICAL RESUME
……. Rabbit Island
1287 - King Alfonso III – Isla del Rey
1711 - 1st Hospital erected under Admiral John Jennings, Commander of the Mediterranean
1713 - Treaty of Utrecht, 1st British occupation, Governor Richard Kane- Bloody Island
1756 - 1763 French domination
1763 - Treaty of Paris – 2nd British occupation
1171 - Governor General Moystin. 1st stone laid by Baron Peter Dennis, Admiral of the Mediterranean Fleet
1776 - Hospital building finalized
1781 - Hospital dismantled by the Duke of Crillón
1782 - Treaty of Versalles, 1st Spanish occupation
1784 - Building repairs and addition of chapel dedicated to San Carlos
1798 - 3rd British occupation
1802 - Peace treaty of Amiens. Conquerors Right
1821 - Yellow fever epidemic – Lazareto Island
1830 - Military hospital during the French Wars (African conquests)
1833 - American Naval workshop and store depot
1840-1843 – Coal base for the French.
1888 - Basilica Paleocristiana unearthed under General Hipólito Llorente
1906 - South wing restored, copper plaque discovered commemorating completion of hospital in 1776
1964 - Hospital transferred to C/. Vasallo in Mahon town
1974 - Town Council offers Island to the Spanish Government to build a Parador
1979 - Island declared National Historical & Artistic Monument with special archaeological emphasis on the chapel and the adjacent buildings
1985 - Property of the Town Council of Mahon - One of the ideas proposed was to build a (Fractal) 5 star hotel
2004 - Association Friends of the Hospital Island formed
2005 - The Association converted into a Foundation
Isla del Rey (King Island)
In the middle of the Port of Mahon, approximately half way between the mouth of the port and its end, you find the Isla del Rey (King Island), called this because in 1287 it was the first land trod by the Spanish King, Alfonso III, during his campaign to conqueror Menorca from the Muslims. Prior to this the island was referred to as Rabbit Island.
The island has a surface area 41.177 sq.mts. and is triangular in form, it has two embarkation areas, one in the north and the other in the south, the latter being utilized more due its proximity to Cala Fontanillas, in Es Castell. The island is occupied by the old military hospital located on the east side, a closed enclosure surrounding and protecting the remains of the basilica (dated 6th Century)
During the 18th Century shortly after taking his seat, the 1st British Governor expropriated the island from its owners with the intention of constructing a sailor’s hospital. Under the command of John Jennings, of the British Mediterranean Fleet, in 1711 a spacious and airy hospital was built, and according to records remained an active institution for the following sixty years until it was substituted during the second British occupation for a newer building following a baroque style.
On the 30th October 1771, during Governor Moystins epoch and under great pomp and circumstance, the acting Admiral of the Mediterranean Fleet, Baron Sir Peter Dennis laid the 1st stone. This act was commemorated with an engraved copper plaque, which was accidentally found in 1906 following restoration work.
The new hospital constructed between 1771 and 1776 had two floors, formed a "U" shape and was surrounded by gardens. The strong walls facing the sea were built with small windows while the interior walls were completely open with a series of arcades. The ground floor had an open corridor bordered with arches, opening onto the patio area; these arches corresponded with the arches located on the 1st floor. In actual fact the arches of the 1st floor were more decorative, were closed in and had windows, each arch divided by a strong buttress, and although it was a very strong feature the architectural design made the upper floor appear very light. The centre of the building and the crown of this majestic building was the square shaped tower situated in the east block.
This square baroque style tower served not only as an elegant focal point to the hospital but it also served as a strategic viewing point to observe approaching sea vessels.
During this period the hospital had 40 wards for the sick and needy, varying rooms for the medical staff, a pharmacy, a laundry, the kitchens, bathrooms and three natural water wells.
Under the Spanish rule in 1781 the troops removed roof tiles, windows and doors to the Fortress of San Felipe to be used for the barracks there.
In 1784 the Spanish Government ordered the islands repair and increased the capacity of the buildings, and added a chapel dedicated to San Carlos.
Even today in its rough state the chapel still maintains some of its former elegance; paintings on the chamber roof are still visible, representing the tetramerous. Two arched simple baroque windows lay either side of the alter permitting a natural light into the chamber.
According to the chronicles of the Menorcan, Joan Roca i Vinent, the new hospital was opened on the 5th April 1784 and on the 1st of August of the same year the chapel was blessed and dedicated to San Carlos.
Hospital Island was to pass through another period of British occupation until again it was categorically reincorporated back to Spanish possession via the Treaty of Amiens, following the decision of the war commission, granting the right of ownership via conquest.
However a few years later and for the following twenty years the life of the Island was altered due to other motives. During the Wars of Independence stocks were in such a short supply that it was difficult to maintain the island as an active hospital, and for this reason the sick were transferred to the barracks of Es Castell and the island was rented out to cattle farmers.
In 1821 Menorca experienced an epidemic of yellow fever and the sanitary unit was moved over to the old military hospital on Lazareto Island.
After the Moroccan conquests by the French in 1830 the Spanish authorities allowed the French to reestablish a military hospital on the island and attend their wounded African campaign soldiers, on the basis that they restored the old hospital.
Three years later the Americans occupied the island and used it as a store and workshop for their Mediterranean fleet, the Americans were also responsible for the sewing rooms, so uniforms could be made and repaired.
In 1840 the French returned and used the island as a natural coal deposit for the steam ships covering the Algerian line. They stayed on the island for three years until they were ordered off by the Spanish, so the island could once again become a military hospital.
After so many other uses, the island from 1843 recuperated her former role as a military hospital, which she maintained for over a century. It is sure that one of her glorious roles in the eyes of the historians was the fact the island hospital offered one of the best institutions of her type, especially after additional works to increase her capacity and service.
Her island situation proved to be advantageous when dealing with contagious cases, but on the other hand crossing the channel proved to be dangerous when transporting some patients. It was therefore decided in 1964 by the Military bodies to transfer the hospital to new buildings located on the outskirts Mahon, thus closing the doors of the Island Hospital for good.
Although built during the 6th Century, her discovery is relatively present. In the year 1888, whilst agricultural work was taking place on the island, a construction was discovered, thus indicating the existence of previous life. To be exact, on the 24th January on the western side of the island a beautiful mosaic measuring some 32 square meters was found.
Fortunately, the actual military Governor, General Hipòlito Llorente showed an intense interest and ordered the zone to be protected, although cordoned off the elements soon started to damage the tiles of the mosaic, so a few years later the mosaic was transferred and stored in the Cultural Houses (now the Public Library) In the beginning it was felt that it was the floor of a Roman villa or a Hebrew church, but these first theories were rejected by Dr. Palol who had just studied the mosaic at Torello and felt the similarities were too great, concluding that the two cases were indeed Paleocristic basilicas. On the Island white, pink and blue tiles were found, which are to date stored in the Menorcan Museum in Mahon.
On the 20th April by Royal Decree 1243/79 the Island was declared a National Historical, Archaeological and Artistic Monument, emphasizing the Basilica and its adjacent buildings.
- Extracts taken from the presentation of Francisco Fernández Terrés during the III International course on the History of the Port, 2001
THE FRIENDS OF THE ISLAND ASSOCIATION
The Friends of Hospital Island Association is open to everyone, in the public or private sector; it is a non-profit making body, whose principal aim is to restore the island to its former glory, thus reviving its emblematic status within the Port of Mahon. A body dedicated to a plan yet always recognizing that the island belongs to the Council of Mahon.
The Association aims to highlight that its principal goal is to prevent the further deterioration of the island, thus reducing the natural degeneration. To promote and accentuate the island, to liaise with experts from all spheres in order to make the correct decisions regarding the works and fundamentally to collaborate on a united basis with all the institutional bodies.
The basic philosophy of the Association is to return the island to an adequate, safe and suitable state to enable the collection of data, strengthen the history and natural patrimony of the Port, ultimately allowing the island to regain its dignity.
The Association is aware that to enable any studies (urban, architectural archaeological, historical and ecological) it is necessary to pursue a general plan of cleaning, to remove unnecessary undergrowth and vegetation, remove building waste and rubble. To prevent further vandalism, improper usage of the island and to care for the area, a home has been built and refurbished for the security guard.
Later a programme of usage will be developed more specifically to quantify and value the island economically, to analyze further ideas and developments, to enhance and conserve the island, within a financial autonomy.