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Sunday, January 26, 2020

Secret crypt discovered in the former Franciscan Convent in Garachico

Inside the Franciscan convent in Garachico - stone pavements and heartwood cloisters. Cultural Centre, Municipal Library, Municipal Archives, Natural Science Museum, Local History Museum and exhibition hall.

Restoration works at the former Franciscan convent building, annexed to the Town Hall and with 500 years of history, have brought to light a previously unknown crypt under the presbytery of the church with human burials

The restoration and renovation works that have been carried out, for the last three months, in the old convent of San Francisco, in Garachico, have brought to light an ancient crypt located on the border with the church of Our Lady of Los Angeles, which until the 16th century was part of the same building. The finding, as DIARIO DE AVISOS learned recently, is of historical interest, given the age of the building: the convent and the Franciscan church were founded by Genoese Cristóbal de Ponte in 1524.

The tomb was located under the presbytery (chancel or sanctuary) of the chapel of Vera Cruz and at the time of the discovery its entrance was blocked. The crypt was found when some slabs were removed from the courtyard of the former convent and the earth was removed. The crypt has well placed remains inside, some consider probably of friars, something very common in convent churches. After a report made by the Cabildo de Tenerife, the Bishopric will study whether there is structural damage or if it can be opened to the public and visited. Pending the results of load tests and the walls, the crypt was sealed as a precaution. Until they are finished, the presbytery cannot be used either.

The current restorations will see a lift installed for access to the second floor, where the Library and the Municipal Archive are located. In addition to adapting spaces that were in very precarious conditions, such as the area of ​​the bathrooms - at risk of collapse - the rear part was left ready for the future installation of a cafeteria. Also, pavements are being removed from the hallways of the courtyards, which hindered mobility.

Another priority is the restoration of the old belfry, whose balcony was removed in 2015 due to the danger it posed, including the two bronze bells, sheltered in municipal warehouses.

The former convent survived the eruption of 1706, when lava skirted around it and its religious images were rescued. The altarpieces and the marble funeral monument that represented its founder, Cristóbal de Ponte and his wife were, however, lost.

After the damage caused by the lava, the building was rebuilt with relative speed. In 1822, as a result of confiscation, the building was assigned to the local council to use as the Town Hall, the public jail and a primary school. When it deteriorated considerably, it was last restored in 1980 to become the House of Culture.

The local mayor reports surprise at the finding, but it seems it may not have been unknown to everyone. José Velázquez Méndez, official chronicler of Garachico, comments that Julio Rosquet García, who died last year and had been pastor of the municipality for 55 years, had spoken to him about an opportunity to go down to the crypt. He says that it has two doors and that the exact place of its location is the chapel of Vera Cruz. "Behind the altar is a gap with an old wooden staircase to go down to the crypt, which was that of the Ponte family," he says. “I told him that there was nothing there but cement bags, since when they did the last restoration of the building, they threw them there with garbage and rubble.

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