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Christianity was established in the Canary Islands with the arrival of the Spaniards. Fathers of various monastic orders founded monasteries and chapels and Christianised the native population of the Canary Islands.
The Canarians are almost 100% Catholic and have built many churches in honour of the Virgin Mary. In addition to the regular national church holidays, many feasts of Mary and commemorative days of a large number of saints are celebrated exuberantly. During pilgrimages ('romerias'), images of Mary, Jesus or other saints are carried along.
The patron saint of the Canary Islands is Candlemas or 'Virgen de la Candelaria'.
Remarkable church buildings
SAN SEBASTIÁN DE LA GOMERA
The Ermita de San Sebastián (Chapel of Saint Sebastian) is the oldest sacred building on La Gomera. It was built in 1450 in honour of the patron saint of the island. Afterwards, it was destroyed several times; the current building dates from 1659.
The Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (Church of Our Lady of Ascension) is the largest church on the island. Construction began in 1450; the present three-aisled church building dates from the 17th century and was further extended in the 18th century.
The wooden roof vault is made in the Moorish mudéjar style, which combines Christian decorative arts with Arabic art based on geometric shapes. Behind the late baroque high altar there is a mural by José Luján Pérez (1756-1815).
A few kilometres north of the capital is the Ermita de Nuestra Señora de Guadelupe, a snow-white pilgrimage chapel dating from 1542. Every five years a huge festival is held here, during which the statue of the madonna is lowered into the water in a procession and sailed to San Sebastian on a decorated boat.
The Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación is a neo-Gothic church, built in the 1930s and financed by some banana barons. The wooden altar and the claccisistic madonna statue by sculptor Fernando Estévez of Tenerife are special.
The Iglesia de Santo Domingo de Guzmán (Dominican Church) was built in 1511 and subsequently restored several times. The wooden coffered ceiling is in the mudéjar style and the Gothic columns and arches are also striking. One of the altars dates from 1680. In 1711, the church was completely destroyed and only rebuilt in 1927.
The neo-Gothic Iglesia San Marcos or 'La Mezquita' was built between 1911 and 1923 in the Moorish mudéjar style and resembles a mosque with its white plastered walls and minaret-like bell tower. The four domes can be seen from afar. The main altar has an effigy of a lion, the symbol of Saint Mark.
PLAYA DE SANTIAGO
The small Ermita de Santiago Apóstol consists of three naves and was built in the middle of the 20th century. Classicist elements were merged with the mujédar style.
Evers, K. / Canarische eilanden : Tenerife, La Gomera, El Hierro, La Palma, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote
Leibl, M. / Gomera & Hierro
Lipps, S. / La Gomera
Lipps, S. / Wandelgids La Gomera en El Hierro
Murphy, P. / Canarische eilanden
Renouf, N. / Canarische eilanden
Rokebrand, R. / Reishandboek Tenerife
Schulze, D. / La Gomera
Simonis, D. / Tenerife & La Gomera
Williams, C. / Tenerife, including La Gomera
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