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Parish of Santiago Apóstol in Los Realejos

Parroquia Matriz del Apóstol Santiago in Realejo Alto (Los Realejos)
Photo: Paweł "pbm" Szubert / Wikipedia, licencja: CC-BY-SA-3.0

July 25th is the Fiesta de Santiago Apóstol (Santiago el Mayor) - Saint James (Saint James the Great), the Patron Saint of Spain, a fiesta so important it has its own cake. :) In Santa Cruz, the date is somewhat dominated with the anniversary of that failed British attempt on the city; unsurprisingly, the town of Santiago del Teide celebrates Fiestas de Santiago Apóstol in the 2nd half of July, but in Los Realejos, the commemorations are some of the oldest on the island.

On July 25, 1496, the feast of Santiago Apóstol, the Realejo Camp was the scene of the surrender and baptism of the Guanches, incorporating the island of Tenerife into the Crown of Castile. The Fiesta de Santiago is one of the oldest festivities, and was recognized among the main ones in Realejo Alto, along with the festivities of the Cruz, San Isidro and Nuestra Señora de los Remedios.

The festivities dedicated to the Apostle Santiago have their origin in the years after the conquest, with the foundation of the temple dedicated in his honour in the Realejo de Arriba. The founding commemoration of Los Realejos, takes on a special charisma with the transfer of the banner of the town by the municipal corporation to the parish church, the solemn Eucharist gives way to the subsequent procession that runs through the main streets of Realejo Alto

The Parroquia Matriz del Apóstol Santiago (St James Church) was one of the first religious buildings in Tenerife in 1496, after the conquest was over. Taking into account the mentality of the time and the reasons that made conquering possible, it isn't surprising that Alonso Fernández de Lugo and his entourage decided to build a temple to Santiago Apóstol as a token of gratitude. 

This idea is supported by the participation in this conquering process of Gran Canarians from the present municipality of Gáldar, a population that, from its origins, was under the protection of the aforementioned saint and who, once established in this region of Taoro (former Guanche kingdom), immediately worked on setting up and running the sugar cane business. 

That July 25, 1496, the baptism of the nine Guanche menceyes who received Christian names took place, becoming a very basic community that would require, as such, a place to celebrate their new faith. Although the first records unfortunately disappeared in the 17th century, it is believed that immediately after the conquest there must already have been a physical place destined for Divine Worship, since in 1542, the Synods of Bishop Don Diego de Muros mention the donation of lands to the church of “… Santiago del Realejo de Arriba”.

The construction of the temple as it is preserved today lasted until the 17th century, since the 16th century building was in a dilapidated state at the beginning of that century. In 1604, the same master who had made the first stonework portal in 1570, was commissioned to dismantle what was renamed the "Old Church" and build the new one. The temple was declared a National Historical-Artistic Monument by Royal Decree 598/1983 of February 2, (B.O.E. Nº 69). 

Since 2014, Realejo Alto has had the denomination of historical complex.

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