The Heritage City Route

From the mirador de San Roque (San Roque lookout) we can see that La Laguna is built in the perfect location; in a fertile valley next to a lagoon, from which the city gets its name, close to the port yet far enough away to avoid attack from pirates. In the Convento de los Dominicos (the Domincan Convent) is el plano de Leonardo Torriani, (the blueprint for the city by the Italian engineer Leonardo Torriani) which will help us understand why the city was given world heritage status. In contrast to the narrow ‘Castilian’ streets of the peninsula, and with an appropriate climate, San Cristóbal de La Laguna was made for walking with its wide, straight streets and the fact it hasn’t a surrounding wall. The Town Hall is one of the largest in Spain and together with the Casa de Alvarado Bracamonte (the house of Alvarado Bracamonte), las casas de los Capitanes Generales (the houses of the Captain Generals) and la Casa del Corregidor la de la Alhondiga, all fit together perfectly.

This was the first city to be built with a ‘new world mentality’ which left behind that of the middle ages and was taken to the Americas.

The Iglesia de la Concepción has taken over the function of the old; strategically located Cathedral which is now closed, and is the main building of La Laguna and main church of Tenerife. Its interior holds the pila bautismal where the first Gaunches (the indigenous peoples of the Canaries) were baptized. The tower attached to the church is also an excellent place from which to appreciate the layout of the city.

Franciscans, Augustines and Dominicans all built their monasteries within the city and the convent of San Francisco houses one of the statues most revered by the Tinerfeños (the local people of Tenerife): the Cristo de La Laguna. Baskets of gold and silver were sent from the Americas and the first stop was the islands of the Canaries. Many of the altarpieces are made entirely from embossed silver like those from the Iglesia de Santo Domingo de Guzmán where the remains of the family of the pirate Amaro Pargo are entombed. She was a benefactor to the Dominican order and owner of much of the community. Amaro was much loved in these lands and maintained a close relationship with the nun María de Jesús del Convento de Santa Catalina de Siena. On her death she ordered the pirate to build her a sarcophagus in which to this day rests body of the ‘incorrupt servant’ as she is popularly known. On 15th February many people queue to see her face, to pray to her and ask for a miracle.

San Cristóbal de la Laguna gained its world heritage listing for its houses also; stately homes of high society, nobles and merchants from all over Europe. The Casa Lercaro, the current Museo de Historia (History Museum), the Casa Salazar with its imposing façade or the Casa Montañés, with its patio and plants still on display, are three good examples. However, if there is one home and family which stands out in San Cristobál, it is that of Nava y Grimón. The façade built of bluestone is testament to the power held by the family. Here was where the Tertulias de Nava commenced; where society gathered and discussed ways to make La Laguna a more cultural and less religious city. The records of these gatherings can be found in Real Sociedad Económica de los Amigos del País and kept at the old Casa de los Jesuitas (House of the Jesuits) which also houses an impressive library.

The Augustans also had great influence at the University and in 1702 obtained a papal bull so that its students could receive a degree in art, philosophy, theology and morality.

The current Universidad de La Laguna (La Laguna University) dates back to 1927 and is the largest higher educational centre in the archipelago and enjoys a very good reputation.