Valldemossa Charterhouse's pharmacy

An ancient and beautifullly preserved pharmacy can be visited inside the Charterhouse of Valldemossa on the island of Mallorca.


The pharmacy was founded by the Carthusian monks between 1723 and 1725 and was in use until 1895. The apothecary was originally only for the religious community. After 1835 the monastery was confiscated by the Spanish government, and subsequently the apothecary began extending its services to the community at large.

Perhaps the monastery's most famous resident was the Polish composer and pianist Frederick Chopin and his lover, the French writer George Sand (real name Amantin-Lucile-Aurore Dupin). The two, accompanied by their 15 year old son, Maurice, and 10 year old daughter, Solange, lived there during the winter of 1838 to 1839. At the time, Chopin was suffering from tuberculosis, and was supplied with drugs from the pharmacy. It was also during this time that George Sand wrote her book 'A Winter in Mallorca', which apparently was banned across the island until 1979. Originally written in French, Sand's book was translated into English by the poet Robert Graves, who also lived on the island.

One curiosity among the drugs found in this apothecary is a unique recipe for the so-called 'Theriac' (presumably the 'Theriac of Andromachus'), a polypharmaceutical composition made from plant, mineral and animal products. The primary ingredients are opium and flesh of vipers. Theriac was used from 3rd Century B.C. as an antidote for poison, animal bites and as a general cure-all. Andromachus was the emperor Nero's personal physician. After nearly two millennia, it fell into disuse in the 19th Century.


The framed document, immediately above the pestle and mortar, reads (in English) as follows:

"The antique pharmacy of the Cartuja (Carthusians), founded by the friars for the service of the Monastery, at the end of the seventeenth century. The jars, in which are preserved the drugs of the time, are of Catalan pottery; the glass receptacles are of Majorcan make. After the expulsion of the friars, in 1835, the apothecary, brother Gabriel Oliver, remained in charge of the pharmacy, which served the village of Valldemosa, and the people of the surrounding district.

During the winter of 1838-1839, while Chopin lived in the Cartuja, this pharmacy supplied him with medicaments, as recounted by George Sand in her book, 'Un Hiver a Majorque' where she describes the apothecary's shop, and the ex-friar who superintended it."

  • Photos and main text by Malcolm Kinross (December 2019)

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