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Wednesday, June 10, 2020

The Crosses of Santa Cruz de Tenerife

Procesión de la Santa Cruz Fundacional Photo Jose Mesa Some Rights Reserved 

The official chronicler recalls the history of some of the oldest symbols of the capital of Tenerife, Santa Cruz (Holy Cross), which was founded in May of 1494. 

[When we all get out of quarantine, you could go cross-spotting in the city!]

CRUZ DE LA FUNDACIÓN (Foundation Cross)

Foundation Cross in the Iglesia de la Concepción in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Koppchen / CC BY
Santa Cruz (Holy Cross) received it's name on May 3, 1494, after the Adelantado Alonso Fernández de Lugo nailed a wooden cross to Añazo (the native name for the area) beach to celebrate the mass of thanksgiving for the foundation of the place and port of Santa Cruz.

There, close to the seashore, at the source of the Plaza de la Iglesia, the cross would endure rain, sun and sea until, in 1745, the then mayor asked the bishop for permission to enthrone it in a chapel that he had built in the Placeta de la Cruz, called the Santo Sudario (Holy Shroud).

[Sudar means 'to sweat': is this where we get the word sweatshirt from and is a hoodie an 'unholy shroud' therefore?]

In 1794, however, the bishop allowed the demolition of the aforementioned chapel for the expansion of the slaughterhouse, whose income belonged to the parish, so the cross was placed next to the door of the hermitage of San Telmo until, in 1850, the Dominican friar Lorenzo Siverio, valuing what that ancient symbol represented, transferred it to the chapel of the Hospital de Nuestra Señora de Los Desamparados - Hospital Civil (now Museum of Nature and Archeology).

Map of Santa Cruz in 1701 shows the then location of the Foundation Cross

The inhabitants of Santa Cruz would not begin to feel great interest in the founding symbol until 1871, when then mayor, Emilio Serra y Ruz, had to initiate procedures so that its municipal ownership was recognised, since the parish didn't recognise the claims of the City Council; the Marina authorities alleged that it belonged to them, as San Telmo was the hermitage of the sailors; and the City Council of La Laguna also claimed it, claiming that it should be in its town hall, next to the civic banner, as it is a fundamental piece in the history of the island. Finally, it was on April 19, 1873, when the Permanent Commission of the Deputation Provincial decided that the Cruz de la Conquista (Cross of the Conquest) belonged, in fact and by right, to the Municipality of Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

In 1892, seeing the lamentable state in which the venerated relic was found, the City Council agreed that it should be conveniently embedded in good wood and inserted into a reliquary of wood, nickel and glass, and that the coat of arms should be embossed on its upper part. Since then, its festivity began to be given an institutional character, and it remains in the Mother Church of La Concepción until the present day.


The Cruz de Montañés in the Plaza de la Pila (now Plaza de la Candelaria) in Santa Cruz de Tenerife
As Santa Cruz didn't then have a symbol by which it was known, Bartolomé Antonio Méndez Montañés, one of the most important merchants and shipping companies of the town at the time, commissioned, in 1759, the workshop of Salvador de Alcaraz y Valdés, of Malaga, a marble cross that worthily symbolized the name of the town and port.

The cross was placed in the upper part of the Plaza de la Pila (La Candelaria), on a tiered pedestal of the same material. At its base it read: “At the devotion and expense of Mr. Bartolomé Antonio Montañés, captain of strangers and trustee-representative of this port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Year of 1759 ”.

When the remodeling of the aforementioned plaza, then called La Constitución, was carried out in 1929, the marble cross was transferred to the Plaza de San Telmo, in the El Cabo neighborhood. With the opening of Calle Bravo Murillo and the consequent disappearance of Plaza de San Telmo, this sacred symbol would end up in its current location, next to the parish church of La Concepción, in the Plaza de la Iglesia, in a landscaped space, surrounded by a metal fence. There are those who consider that the Cruz de Montañés should return to its original place, in the Plaza de la Candelaria.


The Augustinian friars who accompanied the Castilians in 1494, established a hospice on the outskirts of the town, current Puerta Canseco and San Francisco de Paula streets, moving in 1744 to a wasteland in Toscal, located on the Camino Real that went to Paso Alto, where they founded a hospice, placing a large wooden cross on its facade to mark it.

What in principle was a humble foundation, soon acquired some relevance, receiving the support of the residents; for this reason, when in 1767 a Royal Provision abolished the hospice and the friars left for the convent that the Order had in La Laguna, the Cross was kept in a nearby place, being known as the Cruz de San Agustín neighborhood, where its residents on May 2 and 3, organized a very popular popular festival in which there were dances and nougat stands.

In 1908, the historian Felipe Miguel Poggi y Borsotto, on behalf of the neighborhood commission, asked the City Council to transfer a small plot to build a sanctuary for the Cruz de San Agustín, but the Commander of Engineers, Tomás Clavijo y Castillo, who had built his house on the site resulting from the demolition of the hospice, opposed it, because the said chapel would take away his enviable view of the bay.

When the Rodríguez López family built their mansion in the current street of La Marina nº 57, the cross went to the municipal warehouses, from where it was rescued by the Luz y Vida Association, in the neighborhood of El Toscal, and placed in a beautiful garden, very close to its original location, located at the confluence of the streets of La Marina and San Francisco, overlooking the gazebo of the architect Marrero Regalado.

La capital restaura la Cruz de San Agustín, en El Toscal (Image of the San Augustine Cross)


Another historic cross survives in the city, which gives its name to Calle de la Cruz Verde, also known as Calle de las Tiendas (Street of the Shops), because in the 17th and 18th centuries it brought together most of Santa Cruz's commerce. Although this cross is related to Nelson's attack in 1797, since in that area fierce street fights took place in which the Tenerife militiamen harassed the English troops who had managed to disembark and were forced to take refuge in the nearby Dominican convent of La Consolación, current Guimerá Theater, and when the civic procession of July 25 arrived in front of the cross, the councilor who carried the banner of the City Council bowed in memory of the Tenerife defenders killed in that attempt, it is documented that in 1761 there was already a green cross, whose origin could be related to the stops that were made during the Via Crucis on Good Friday, between the parish of Our Lady of La Concepción and the church of San Francisco. The aforementioned wooden cross, painted green, was replaced by a marble one.

Tram stop at Cruz del Señor. Image: Josemarear / CC BY


At the confluence of the roads of San Sebastián (current Avenida de Bélgica) and the La Laguna road (Avda. Islas Canarias), in 1754 a cross was placed as a resting place for the funeral processions on their way to the cemetery, as it was customary that the coffin be carried on the shoulders from the deceased's home. It allowed time to say a prayer as well as to catch the breath and regain strength to continue the journey. In 1940, when the parish was created, the popular devotion to this humble cross was so strong in the neighborhood that the name prevailed over the official one of Santa Cruz and, it became the church of the Cruz del Señor (Cross of the Lord), in remembrance of it's origin.


Coat of Arms of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Image: Heralder / CC BY-SA
On the shield of the Muy Noble, Leal e Invicta Villa, Puerto y Plaza de Santa Cruz de Santiago de Tenerife (Very Noble, Loyal and Invicta Villa, Port and Place of Santa Cruz de Santiago de Tenerife - to give the city it's full title), awarded by Real Cédula on August 28, 1803, the red insignia of the Order of Santiago that appears behind the Founding cross, and that crosses the third lion's head, is due to the fact that on the day of the Apostle's festival, July 25, 1797, the English invaders under the command of Horacio Nelson were defeated by the Tenerife militias, Santiago being named compatron of this city.

As the Apostle is also the patron saint of the Cavalry, in 1968, the Captain of the Corps, Fernando Zerolo Davidson, had the initiative of making an 8-meter-tall Santiago Cross, made of galvanized steel and surrounded by a luminous thread, placing it on the high cliff, on the La Montaña de Altura de Paso Alto (Paso Alto mountain) in the Barrio de la Alegría. The monument was made and assembled by the soldiers who were taking the Professional Promotion course at the Regiment of Engineers in La Cuesta.

The Port Authority of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is in charge of carrying out its maintenance, and thanks to its lighting, residents and walkers can remember this historical legacy of the Tenerife capital and it is a reference to the passengers of the ships that visit.

Las cruces de Santa Cruz de Tenerife

Santa Cruz de Tenerife north dock with the Montaña de Paso Alto (right).

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