Tenerife is an island with a rich cultural and religious history. In fact, the popular travel site TripAdvisor has five churches occupying the top ten list of things to do on Tenerife. These churches and convents are mostly known for their rich, ornate and artistic architecture and style. However, many have unique stories grown from their long history, recorded as far back as 600 years ago.
These sites are easy to reach and offer visitors a view into another side of life on Tenerife. Here are few churches that made the top ten list and the reasons that tourists and pilgrims alike are drawn to these religious sites.
Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Candelaria
This minor basilica sits on the edge of the city of Candelaria, about 20 km (12 mi) south of the island’s capital, Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Surrounded by ample parking and a pleasant statue-lined plaza, the basilica has a commanding view over the sea.
Pilgrims flock to Nuestra Senora de Candelaria yearlong, but especially on August 14th which marks the celebration of the Virgin of Candelaria, the patron saint of the Canary Islands.
The Virgin, one of the Black Madonna’s, has a rich history with the island since, as legend has it, she washed up on shore to be discovered by two goat herders. She was kept in a cave and worshipped by the local Guanche until a church was later built to house the venerated statue.
The original statue was washed out to sea in a tidal wave but a copy was made and the locals continued their worship. The Spaniards, in their quest to convert the Guanche, built a church to house the new statue in 1526; however, bad luck continued and the church was taken by fire. The current, ornate basilica took over ten years to build and was consecrated on February 1, 1959. It now houses the statue.
Iglesia de la Concepcion, San Cristobal de La Laguna
The Iglesia de la Concepcion was the first parish church established on Tenerife. It is located in the city of San Cristobal which lies approximately 11 km (7 mi) inland from the capital city of Santa Cruz.
The church features a tower rising over the city that many climb for fantastic views of the surrounding countryside. In 1948, the site was declared a National Historic-Artistic Monument by the Spanish government.
Inside the temple there is the protected oil of St. John. It is said that when the Black Death hit the island in 1648, the icon sweated oil and this miracle eradicated the disease from the island.
Just outside the church stands a beautiful statue of Pope John Paul II sculpted by Polish artist CzeslawDzwigaj and blessed by the Bishop of Tenerife.
Convento Santa Catalina, San Cristobal de La Laguna
Also located in La Laguna is the convent Santa Catalina. This convent is well-known for the resting site of the body of the Sister María de Jesús de León Delgado, a venerated nun. Guarded by the convent of Dominican nuns, the body is only available for viewing on the anniversary of her death on February 15 and the following Sunday. On these days thousands of faithful come to pay their respects to “The Siervita”, lining up for hours in a queues extending around the blocks.
Also known as the Convent of St. Catherine of Siena, the site contains notable artwork including a sculpture of Santa Rosa de Lima, sculpted by Rodríguez de la Oliva, a well-known 18th century sculptor.
Founded in 1611, the convent has at times housed hundreds of nuns. The building sits directly in the center of the city of San Cristobal de La Laguna and is easily accessed.
Convento de San Francisco, Garachico
Garachico was the busiest port in Tenerife during the 16th and 17th centuries thanks to its deep natural harbor. However, the town was ravaged by volcanic eruption in 1706 and has never regained its stature,though it has made a steady comeback to become a quaint seaside town.
Located 61 km (38 miles) from Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Garachico is home to the former Convento de San Francisco which is now a local museum with interesting architecture and many interesting photos of old-time Garachio.
For only 1 Euro, visitors can get out of the heat and tour the tree-shaded convent and marvel at the spectacularly carved wood ceilings, balconies and detailed gargoyles. Much of the wood-working is done in the mudéjar style that blends Muslim and Christian architecture. The wooden balconies surround the inside of the structure which is typical of authentic Canarian architecture.
Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Pena Francia, Puerto de la Cruz
On the north coast of Tenerife, 37 km (23 miles) from Santa Cruz you will find Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Pena Francia. Sitting directly in the center of Puerto de la Cruz’s old town, the Peña de Francia houses an ornate Baroque style alter and houses many pieces of artwork as well as fine examples of Spanish gold and silver dating back hundreds of years.
Finished in 1697 and replacing a simple chapel originally occupying the site, the Peña de Francia has been modified, restored and added to over hundreds of years to achieve its present state and high-level of artistic significance.
The Other Side of Tenerife
Tenerife may be well-known around the world for its beaches, shopping and night life, however, before the tourists, and continuing into present day, the locals and the faithful pilgrims have found respite and rejuvenation in the churches and convents of Tenerife. For hundreds of years, Tenerife has built a rich religious history and tradition that can now be enjoyed by all who visit this beautiful island.
Have you visited any of these cathedrals or convents?
Tell us your experience in the comments below.