Monday, July 25, 2022

The Castillo de San Cristóbal Interpretation Centre on the 225th Anniversary of Nelson's Failed Attempt on the city of July 25, 1797

Museums of Tenerife wishes to announce that, on the occasion of the 225th Anniversary of the Attempt of July 25, it offers citizens the possibility of enjoying a series of guided tours that will take place in the Interpretation Centre of the Castillo de San Cristóbal

At the end of the 1990s, Santa Cruz de Tenerife still had not resolved the integration of the port into its urban core, a situation that led to the calling of several tenders. The Cabildo, the City Council and the Port Authority finally opted for the Herzog & De Meuron project, one premise of which was that the citizen, taking Calle del Castillo as a starting point, could move towards the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, following a longitudinal path in the manner of a previous project proposed by José Blasco Robles and José Luis Escario, which linked two existing squares – Candelaria and España – and a newly created one, the “Plaza del Agua”. In short, it was an ambitious staging that fused the metaphor of the gateway to the Atlantic with the protection of visible architectural vestiges, such as the Monument to the Fallen and the façade of the Alameda del Duque de Santa Elena, as well as other equally known but disappeared ones, such was the case of the Castillo de San Cristóbal. Some remains of its original walls appeared again during the remodelling works of the space and were incorporated under the surface of the recently created "Plaza del Agua". To access the find, a structure of galleries was set up to facilitate access to the venerable vestiges, a space that required the implementation of an interpretation centre. 

In this way, the San Cristóbal Castle Interpretation Centre was conceived, inaugurated in July 2008 and managed by the Autonomous Organism of Museums and Centres of the Cabildo de Tenerife through the Museum of History and Anthropology. The status of interpretation centre has eclipsed, to a certain extent, the nature of a site museum – the first in Tenerife – of the Castillo de San Cristóbal. Indeed, the aforementioned space offers citizens the possibility of visiting one of the most powerful heritage remains that have shaped its history, defending the island for more than two centuries against naval attacks.

In addition to the walls, the San Cristóbal Castle Interpretation Centre offers the possibility of contemplating other exhibits, such as the two tombstones that recall the name of the person who was the builder of the main fortress on the island of Tenerife, Juan Álvarez de Fonseca; and, of course, the presence of the “El Tigre” cannon, exhibited for the first time since it was put out of service, in the environment where it once played a more than outstanding role in the early hours of July 24 to 25, 1797, as evidenced by the testimonies of Monteverde and Grandi Giraud, protagonists and exceptional witnesses of the events.

From the very moment of the centre's inauguration, Tenerife Museums always had the suspicion that it would waste the museum space if it focused exclusively on the Gesta of July 25, an episode whose dimension and appeal have made us overlook the three previous centuries of history of the castle and, by extension, of the city. That is why it was proposed as a place for reflection on the history of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, conceived from the present to the past, taking into account the importance of the fortifications, but also in other episodes that date back at the time of the conquest. Since its inauguration, the San Cristóbal Castle Interpretation Centre has remained open to date, becoming a benchmark for citizens, both local and visitors. That is why, on the occasion of the 225th anniversary of the Gesta, and taking into account the decisive role it played in the event from July 24 to 25, 1797, Museums of Tenerife have decided, through the Museum of History and Anthropology, to launch a series of activities:

Guided visits

They will take place in the Interpretation Centre of the Castillo de San Cristóbal and will begin coinciding with the date of the event: July 25. They will be guided by technicians from the Museum of History and Anthropology of Tenerife.

The Castle of San Cristóbal, despite playing a fundamental role in the events that took place in the early hours of July 24-25, 1797, remains, however, a great unknown. The multitude of memorials and reports on the matter, rather than clarify, has been to confuse even more. These visits will try to clarify some of the most commented aspects, but it will not only be about the Gesta, there are also references to the history of the castle itself, which began to be built at the end of 1575 and, by extension, to the history of Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

The guided visits are on offer from 25 to 29 July at mid-day and on 25, 27 and 29 July at 5pm. Entrance is free, but limited to 30 people at a time.

NB: These guided tours, undoubtedly, will be in Spanish, however the San Cristóbal Castle Interpretation Centre is open all year, Monday to Saturday 10am to 6pm, (except 24, 25 and 31 December, 1 and 6 January and Carnival Tuesday.) When I went, the staff spoke excellent English.