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Tuesday, April 09, 2019

San Cristóbal Castle Santa Cruz de Tenerife

Cañón Tigre on display in the San Cristóbal Castle Interpretation Centre

Underneath the Plaza de España in Santa Cruz and marked by the black lines that can be seen in the lake from above, are the ruins of the Castillo de San Cristóbal (Castle of San Cristóbal). Portions of the castle ruins were uncovered during the refurbishment of the plaza carried out by the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron in 2006 and these ruins are now open to the public via The San Cristóbal Castle Interpretation CentreReading that the centre was to be closed during carnival, we made this our first port of call.

Entrance is FREE, so it's well worth it to have a look if you're in the city and for those of a nervous disposition, I'll just mention that the steps are quite normal and the well-lit underground exhibit is not at all dark and dingy as I was expecting.

You don't need to be in the city long before you realise that 25 July is a very important date!

The whole centre is nicely done with information on various historical attacks on the city - not just the English ones, although that always figures strongly in any history of the city and here is no exception - with good English translations under the information panels.

Restos del Castillo de San Cristóbal - Enrique Castrillo Núñez [CC BY-SA 2.5 es], via Wikimedia Commons

The shopping street, Calle del Castillo, is named after this fortification that was constructed under the administration of the first Governor of Tenerife, Juan Álvarez de Fonseca, with work begun in 1575. The natural expansion process of the city, together with new military tactics, plunged the building into conditions of degradation that ended with the demolition of the fort in 1928. The Plaza de España was built in it's place.

Castillo de San Cristóbal Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the early 20th Century Via

The Cañón Tigre - decisive in the defeat of the English admiral Horatio Nelson in his attempt to invade Tenerife in 1797 - that is currently on display in the interpretation centre (already moved from the Museo Histórico Militar de Canarias), is destined to be moved again to the future Museum of History of the City in the Palacio de Carta.

Interpretation Centre «Castillo de San Cristóbal» 

The Interpretation Centre "Castillo de San Cristóbal" managed by the Autonomous Organization of Museums and Centres of the Island Council of Tenerife, is an interpretive resource that allows the visitor to discover and contextualize the remains of the walls of the Castle of San Cristóbal, as well as to learn something more about the history and the defence of the Island. In June 2006, during the remodelling works of the Plaza de España by the architects Herzog & de Meuron, traces of the perimeter wall of said construction appeared. Given the historical importance of the find, it was decided to protect and value this heritage resource, incorporating an underground gallery to the new architectural layout to make it open to visitors.

Central to the defensive of the island, taking a tour not only through the castles of Santa Cruz de Tenerife (San Cristóbal, San Juan or Paso Alto), but also by those that were located throughout the insular geography, some of which are still standing: such as that of San Felipe, in Puerto de la Cruz; or that of San Miguel, located in Garachico.

The exhibition project, which has been prepared by the Museum of History and Anthropology of Tenerife, dedicates another of its areas to the history of the Castillo de San Cristóbal itself, from its construction around 1575 until its demolition in 1928. As a testimony of its presence, the silhouette of its fortification has been highlighted on the floor of the lake that currently occupies part of its site. A military construction that until a few years ago was only remembered by the popular Castillo street; but now it has leaned into the present and claims its place in the history of the city.

Since July 25, 2009, the Interpretation Centre "Castillo de San Cristóbal" has an added attraction: the mythical bronze cannon "El Tigre". A piece of artillery from the 18th century, made in a Seville workshop, about 3 m long and 2,000 kg in weight. It is an emblematic heritage asset that was transferred from the Canary Islands Military History Museum to its current location to be exhibited in a conditioned room.

This new temporary location is ideal for the representative canyon, not only because it is an exceptional piece to illustrate the exhibition discourse of the Centre, but because with its presence it also recalls the place it occupied on the night of July 24, 1797, when British aspirations to take Santa Cruz de Tenerife were truncated.

Although historically unprovable, popular tradition says that it was "El Tigre" that wounded the famous English admiral Horacio Nelson, snatching his arm. Symbol of that feat, this piece of artillery has survived in the memory of Tenerife. It has been mentioned, reproduced and imagined ever since and has remained one of the most powerful metaphors and allegories of value throughout time; as well as the feelings of the people of Tenerife.

The Centre can be visited, free of charge, from Monday to Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., except holidays.