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Interpretation centre

“Castillo San Cristóbal”

A tiny fragment of the past lies beneath the Plaza de España. It was in June 2006 while the Plaza was being remodelled that the remains of the former Castillo de San Cristóbal (castle) came to light. It took a year to build the underground tunnel making it accessible for visitors and local people alike and to incorporate an interpretation centre designed by Tenerife History and Anthropology Museum, which belongs to the Organismo Autónomo de Museos y Centros del Cabildo Insular de Tenerife (Tenerife Island Government Museums and Centres).

This modest proposal takes the form of a series of informative panels that aims to enhan­ce the enjoyment and experience of contemplating the ruin by providing historical details and facts. The journey through this underground gallery is like a time tunnel, as the castle remains provide an excuse to get closer to the history of the city and the island.

4 theme areas have been arranged in an antechamber and the ensuing passageway, which leads to the castle remains, divides into two and ends at two vantage points from where the ruins can be observed.

Looking back.

A brief retrospective exhibition about the defence system of Tenerife

There is an initial exhibition about the island’s defence system, incorporating the castles in Santa Cruz, including San Cristóbal (which formed the main defence structure, along with the castles of San Juan and Paso Alto), followed by the rest of the island. Several castles still remain today, such as San Felipe in Puerto de la Cruz and San Miguel in Garachico. Various engineers designed and planned the shape, number and location of the island’s fortifications. One of the most outstanding was Leonardo Torriani, an Italian engineer who came to Tenerife in 1587 expressly for this purpose.

Santa Cruz de Tenerife:

A town with a history, a city with a future

Following is a route through the city’s history, from the most palpable present to the most tangible past. The starting point is the twenty-first century, a witness to such diametri­cally opposed scenes as the arrival in Santa Cruz port of majestic cruise ships as well as makeshift boats overflowing with immigrants.

Throughout the twentieth century, several projects were conceived for the port of Santa Cruz, a city that welcomed King Alfonso XIII and was made the capital of one of the two provinces into which the Canaries were divided under the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera. The city would also witness the assassination of the last mayor of the II Republic, José Carlos Schwartz, during the months immediately after the outbreak of the Civil War.

The nineteenth century saw great years for Santa Cruz. After the victory against Nelson, in the late eighteenth century, the city was granted the title of Villa Exenta (free town) by King Carlos IV. The population had shown themselves to be loyal, noble and undefeated. Meanwhile, the city port was declared “of secondary general interest”. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Santa Cruz evolved both defensively and demographically, which led to changes in the urban layout. Subsequently, it became the chosen site of the incipient middle classes. Resistance to the sieges of Jennings, Blake and Nelson was worthily remembered in the three lion heads that grace the city’s shield—a city that had gradually sprung up on the site of the modest fishing village at the point where Alonso Fernández de Lugo first landed in Añaza. The Castillo de San Cristóbal soon became the principal fort of the bay and indeed the island.

The Castillo de San Cristóbal

Now closer to the ruins, we reach the special area dedicated to Castillo De San Cristóbal, which gives a history of events from when the castle was built in 1575 until it was demoli­shed in 1928. It was erected when Juan Álvarez de Fonseca was governor of the island in 1577, at the time that the Cabildo decided to transfer the artillery. This powerful structure was built on a square ground plan with four bastions, one in each corner, and was located on a reef called Blas Díaz that disappeared when land was gained from the sea. Throu­ghout its 353-year history, the castle was extended and altered. It was the residence of the Captains General, the Governors and the seat of the Military Government. The most important actions of war in which it was involved are listed below:

  • Battle against Blake, 30 April 1657
  • Battle against Jennings, 6 November 1706
  • Battle against Nelson, 25 July 1797

The castle was demolished as the city expanded, and in 1930 practically nothing remai­ned. Today the silhouette is outlined against the bottom of the lake. Its memory only lin­gered on in the name of the busy street, calle del Castillo. But once again, the castle has reclaimed a place in the history of the city.

Cannon room “El Tigre”

On the 28th of August 1803, Santa Cruz de Tenerife was granted the title of «Most loyal, noble and undefeated town, port and plaza …». Years ago, the triumph of the people of Tenerife over the powerful British Navy contributed, to a large extent, to the reception of this honorary title. Once again, the people of Tenerife displayed their extraordinary value against the invader. The notable shortage of means and preparation was supplemented by the heroism of the popular militias. According to tradition, never denied, in the early morning of the 25th of July 1797, in the surroundings of the Castillo de San Cristóbal, an a16 cannon, «El Tigre», mutilated the right arm of Rear Admiral Horacio Nelson. After having spent many years in the Castillo de San Pedro, in 1894 «El Tigre» was acquired by the Santa Cruz de Tenerife City Council, then the capital of the unique province of the Canary Islands.

Already considered a symbol of the island of Tenerife, in 1955 it was once again mounted on a gun carriage, a replica of the original, and exhibited on the platform of the Paso Alto Castle. In 1988, the City Council of the capital agreed to transfer it on deposit to the Regional Military Museum of the Canary Islands. Since July 2009, it has occupied a place of honor in the Interpretation Center of Castillo de San Cristóbal, returning to the place where, from history, it entered into legend.