The town of Betancuria in Fuerteventura
|Betancuria is a picturesque small town west of the island of Fuerteventura; the city has just over 200 inhabitants, but it is one of the oldest cities founded by Europeans in the Canary Islands; it was founded in the early fifteenth century, in 1404, the conqueror of the island of Fuerteventura, the Norman Jean de Béthencourt, who made it the capital of the Canary Islands. La Villa de Santa María de Betancuria retained the status of capital of the island of Fuerteventura until 1834.|
In this long history Betancuria retained an interesting historical center, dominated by its church Sainte-Marie, formerly Cathedral of the Diocese of the Canaries.
Despite its small population Betancuria is the capital of a joint, the smallest - by area - the six municipalities of the island of Fuerteventura; it is also the least populated municipality of the Canary Islands, with just over 800 inhabitants. Also Betancuria, this municipality includes the villages of Valle de Santa Inés and Vega de Río Palmas. As the entire island of Fuerteventura, Betancuria is part of the province of Las Palmas, which includes Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote.
The crest of the city of Betancuria bears the lion of the arms of Jean IV de Béthencourt, but - in heraldic terms - that lion should be “sand” (black) and not of “reds” (red).
|Etymology and toponymy|
|Betancuria is named after its founder, Jean IV de Béthencourt (named Juan de Bethencourt in Castilian Spanish), who, with his companion Gadifer de La Salle, conquered the islands Lancerotte (Lanzarote) to Fortaventure (Fuerteventura) and Fer (El Hierro). In the chronicles of the conquest of the Canaries, called “Le Canarien “Béthencourt called the city Sainte-Marie de Béthencourie; this name evolved over the years to become Betancuria.|
|Betancuria was founded at some distance from the coast to facilitate defense against attacks by Barbary pirates; the city is in the middle of a picturesque valley hidden in the heart of the mountains. Jean de Béthencourt had reached this valley going up - from its landing site in Puerto de la Peña - the Barranco de Mal Paso and the Barranco de las Peñitas.|
In the north, the town of Betancuria is separated from that of Puerto del Rosario by the Barranco de los Mozos (“the Boys of the ravine”); east, the summit Maninubre marks the border with the town of Antigua; southeast, the Gran Montaña separates Betancuria of Tuineje; south, the Barranco d’Ajuy forms the border with Pájara. To the west the town is open to the ocean by a steep rocky coast where the cliffs alternate with small beaches of black pebbles.
Today we reached Betancuria from Puerto del Rosario, taking the FV-20 road and then the road FV-30; the journey takes half an hour (28 km).
| The village of Betancuria|
|The relief of the town in Betancuria is the most rugged of all the municipalities of the island. This relief reveals the insular base consists of marine sediments whose age is estimated at 100 million years, with plutonic intrusions (syenite of Risco Blanco and Las Peñas the same appearance as granite). This geological formation has a rounded appearance due to prolonged erosive action. In some places, the eruptive activity has left its mark, with the presence of volcanic flows. One can observe the landscape from the viewpoint Morro Velosa in the Rural Park Betancuria.|
Valley Betancuria is crossed by a torrential river, the Barranco de Betancuria, usually dry. The rains, rare but often torrential, and the lack of vegetation to protect the soil, leading to severe erosion; this caused the filling, by land, the dam Las Peñitas downstream of Betancuria.
Although the location of the capital was deliberately chosen in the mountains, there were several serious attacks by Barbary pirates; in 1593, Betancuria was devastated by Berber pirates Xabán. It was not until the seventeenth century that the reconstruction was undertaken; Betancuria has preserved the character of the time, with cobbled streets lined with lovely mansions with remarkable portals and modest peasant homes. In 1979, the entire town was declared "Historical Artistic (Conjunto Histórico Artístico)."
|Tourist map of Betancuria :|
1. St. Mary’s Church
2. Museum of Sacred Art
3. St. Bonaventure Monastery
4. Chapel St. Diego de Alcalá
5. Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum
7. Noria de la Calle
9. Noria de las Peñas
|The St. Mary Béthencourie church (Iglesia de Santa María de Betancuria)|
|Upon arrival, in the early fifteenth century, the Norman conquerors built a simple chapel. It was between 1410 and 1424 the first church of St. Mary of Betancuria was built at the request of Jean de Béthencourt, by the builder Jean le Maçon; This first church was Norman Gothic style of the fifteenth century.|
In 1424, the church of Santa María was consecrated as a cathedral of the Diocese of the Canary Islands by Pope Martin V (pontiff from 1417 to 1431) with the creation of the bishopric of Fuerteventura whose authority extended over the whole the archipelago, except the island of Lanzarote which depended on the bishopric of Rubicón. The bishop appointed by the Pope, the Franciscan Fray Martín de las Casas (Bishop Fuerteventura from 1424 to 1433), never came to Betancuria: the Church of St. Mary retained the status of cathedral as ephemeral way up in 1430.
|All that remains today of the original building as the first level of the bell tower and the bases of the original columns because the church was almost completely destroyed by the Berber hordes commanded by Captain (arráez) Xabán (or Jaban), pirate of Algiers, who sacked and burned the village in 1593.|
Our Lady of Betancuria, as it sees today, was rebuilt in the seventeenth century, from 1620 and completed by the master builder Parraga about 1691. The new building has Gothic, Mudejar, Renaissance and Baroque. It remains one of the most beautiful churches in Fuerteventura.
|The church Santa María la Antigua is a white building with only angles and openings are in light-colored stone. The main gate opens in the middle of the right side wall, said the Epistle wall; it is topped by a round arch and is framed by pilasters decorated with carved vases from which spring stylized plants; the pediment has a shield bearing a papal tiara. The wall of the epistle is reinforced by two buttresses. In the two side walls - the wall of the Gospel and Epistle of the wall - open arched windows semicircular, made of the same light-colored stone.|
The bell tower is leaning against the side wall right to the church background. The bell tower is square in plan; the lower part, decorated with darker stones, is a remnant of the original church steeple burned by Jaban.
|The interior of the church of Santa Maria is divided into three naves with round arches supported on Tuscan columns. The chancel and apse chapels of the aisles are located on the same plane; the three naves are covered with a Mozarabic style ceiling, trapezoidal wooden boxes. The magnificent floor of the church is covered with stone slabs with wooden slats at the intersections between the slabs; one can see the ancient burial arrangement, prior to 1811.|
In the choir, the master hotel has a wooden altarpiece of great value, realized during the second half of the seventeenth century, with polychrome and gold tones specific to the baroque; altarpiece that houses a wooden statue of the Virgin dating from the fifteenth century. The altarpieces of the chapel altars are pure wonders colors.
|The pulpit is made of wood, with boxes in which are represented the symbols of the Eucharist and the Apostles. At the back of the church on the left, a pierced polychrome door reveals the baptistery, where the baptismal font and an interesting Crucifix located.|
The sacristy is located behind the apse of the nave of the Gospel; it is accessible through a door on the left side of the choir. The sacristy has a beautiful ceiling in Mudejar coffered, unique to the Canary Islands. This ceiling artesonado have a Renaissance decoration based on rosettes and vegetation, gilt and polychrome, with red and gold. You can see beautiful pieces of jewelry, including a silver monstrance, the oldest of the archipelago, as well as vestments; one can also admire the banner of the Conquest, which happens to be the banner that was waving Jean de Béthencourt upon his arrival in the island.
The church Santa María is located in the center of historic Betancuria.
Visiting hours: Monday to Friday, from 11 am to 17 pm; Saturday from 11 am to 19 pm.
Entry fee: € 2.
|The Museum of Sacred Art (Museo de Arte Sacro)|
|The Museum of Sacred Art of Betancuria is located in the former rectory of the church Santa María Street Mayor Carmelo Silvera. This small museum - four rooms - offers a fine collection of works from different parishes of the island of Fuerteventura, including paintings and religious sculptures. The third room includes wooden polychrome statues, including that of the apostle Jacques horse dating from the sixteenth century, of exceptional beauty.|
Museo de Arte Sacro
Calle Alcalde Carmelo Silvera s/n, opposite the Museum of Craft of the Casa Santa María.
Telephone: 00 34928878003.
Visiting hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 10 am to 18 pm.
Entry fee: € 1.5.
|The craft museum (Museo Artesania)|
|The Crafts Museum is part of the complex Casa Santa María; it is located in the lush gardens of this set which also includes a restaurant, a cafeteria, a bar, a photography exhibition room of the flora and fauna of the Rural Park Betancuria, and two projection rooms, including a in 3 dimensions. Everything was patiently built since the 1990s by a German-born photographer based in Fuerteventura, Reiner Loos.|
This small ethnographic museum displays traditional crafts, agricultural tools and other antiques collected in the island. One can also see the work of local artisans making objects (weaving, embroidery, basketry, pottery ...) that can be purchased in the museum shop.
The 3D projection room presents including a documentary on marine fauna of the coast of the region.
Visiting hours: Monday to Saturday, 10 am to 15: 30 pm.
Telephone: 00 34928878036.
Entry fee: € 6.
|The Town Hall (Ayuntamiento)|
|The ruins of the Franciscan monastery St. Bonaventure (Convento Franciscano de San Buenaventura)|
|The ruins of St. Bonaventure Franciscan monastery located north of Betancuria; we see the left of the road from La Oliva or Puerto del Rosario, just before entering the village. The monastery is situated below the road into the ravine the monastery (Barranco del Convento).|
This monastery was founded in 1416, a few years after the conquest of the island, by permission of Pope Benedict XIII, by the Prior Pedro de Pernía and the lay brother Juan de Baeza came to Betancuria with seven missionaries from the monastery Abrojo Castilla. However, it seems that the construction was delayed because, in 1423, the brother Juan de Baeza had to get another license, this time of Pope Martin V, under which the faithful who have contributed with their alms, construction the monastery would receive indulgences. This was the first Franciscan monastery built in the Canaries. The first buildings were rudimentary, built with local materials, including palm wood.
|The monastery of San Buenaventura knew a new development with the arrival in Betancuria, in 1445, Brother Diego will become holy Diego de Alcalá (San Diego de Alcalá), accompanied by Brother Juan de Santorcaz. Brother Diego was sent on mission to the Canaries in 1441; after staying at the monastery of Arrecife in Lanzarote, he was appointed governor of the Franciscans to the Canary Betancuria, although it was simple lay brother, normally confined to manual labor. Brother Diego saw the Canarian natives as brothers and not as servants, which displeased the colonists; he was recalled in mainland Spain in 1449 where he died in Alcalá de Henares in 1463; he was canonized in 1588.|
|Around 1454-1455, the monastery was enlarged by the will of Diego García de Herrera, became lord of Fuerteventura by marrying Inés Peraza de las Casas, heir to the lordship of the Canary Islands. Diego de Herrera placed the monastery under the protection of St. Bonaventure, Doctor of the Church and patron saint of the island of Fortaventure, which is celebrated on July 14 (Día de San Buenaventura). Diego García de Herrera died in 1485 in Betancuria and was buried in the monastery of San Buenaventura.|
In 1593, the St. Bonaventure Monastery was destroyed - like the rest of the village - by the hordes of barbarians from the Berber arráez Xaban.
|The monastery was rebuilt in the seventeenth century; it now included a cloister and could seat eighteen monks.The monastery church was enlarged according to a Latin cross, with two sacristies on both sides of the church. These are the walls of this church are still standing today, while leaving only the foundations of monks’ cells.|
|The hermitage of San Diego Alcalá (Ermita de San Diego de Alcalá)|
|The hermitage of San Diego de Alcalá is a few tens of meters of the ruins of the monastery San Buenaventura. It was built over the grotto where, according to tradition, the Franciscan saint retired to pray during his stay at the monastery of Betancuria, between 1445 and 1449.Diego de Alcalá was canonized in 1588. The construction of the chapel was carried out for the most part in the second half of the seventeenth century, a period where we reconstructed the main buildings of Betancuria after the incursion of Barbary pirates from 1593, which had destroyed and burned the village.|
The Hermitage is a building with two naves covered with a hipped tile roof, like the sacristy which is backed bedside Epistle the wall (of the right nave wall). The main portal, made clear stone size with arch is located on the back of the nave of the Gospel (left aisle).
The chapel has two other ports open in the wall of the Gospel, one with a round arch and one with a broken arc. Both doors are separated by a small buttress pressed twice main arc (“triumphal arch”) that divides the naves inside. In the top of the buttress is an opening which probably served as a bell tower. On the wall of the Gospel also open two narrow windows made of clear stone.
Inside, the chapel has two naves separated by pillars that support the red stone arches that support the roof. The wooden roof, quite simple, of Mudejar type, is attributed to Brother Gaspar Crespo, who also assembled the roof of the monastery church of the monastery roof that is now destroyed.
|At the head of the nave of the Gospel (left aisle) is the entrance of the cave where the saint prayed, with a clear stone arch decorated with a carved cord, symbol of the Franciscans. In the cave is a small altarpiece in polychrome and gilded. The top of the altar is a niche shaped shell. A wooden pulpit is leaning against the wall of the Gospel, to the triumphal arch.|
|The nave of the Epistle (right aisle) is divided into three sections separated by red limestone arches. The sacristy is accessible from an open door in the wall of the Epistle.|
The San Diego hermitage was restored in 1965.It is included in the Standard History Betancuria, said in 1979.
|The monument to the potter Majorera Itinerant (Monumento a la Locera Majorera)|
|At Fuerteventura is named itinerant potters (locera) women majoreras who, carrying their equipment from one village to another, manufactured to order, where they were, pieces of pottery.|
The potters extracted from the earth to pick and mixed with volcanic sand; after purification the clay was kneaded by hand and smoothed with a roller and then covered with ocher. The parts were then cooked in batches of 20 or 30, in ovens to air heated with palm wood, fig and other dried wood.
|The archaeological and ethnographic museum (Museo Arqueológico y Etnográfico)|
|The little Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum of Betancuria is mainly devoted to the Guanche tribes of Fuerteventura; the Guanches were the indigenous population living in the Canary Islands before the Norman and Spanish conquest of the fifteenth century. The museum has a few artifacts used by the Guanches of Fuerteventura, appointed Mahos, still living in the Stone Age: including tools made of bone or shell molluscs, ceramic pieces, religious idols stone ... You can see a skeleton found in a tomb in the region which is estimated to have between 600 and 1000 years. Models show the aboriginal habitats and panels to find out how to Mahos fed them, their lifestyle, their grazing and fishing techniques, and the treasures of imagination which they showed to collect rare water on ’island.|
The museum also documents for the first European expeditions in the island of Fuerteventura and the Norman conquest of the fifteenth century, and some ethnographic evidence about life on the island over the centuries.
Visit the Museo Arqueológico de Betancuria :
The museum is located at the southern entrance of the village, on the FV-30 road which becomes Calle Roberto Roldán 1; the museum is housed in an old house typical of the traditional architecture of the island. In front of the museum, two guns - took to English privateers during the Battle of Tuineje in November 1740 - welcome visitors.
Phone: 00 34 928 878 241
Visiting hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 10 am to 18 pm; Sunday, 11 am to 14 pm. Closed Mondays and holidays.
Entry fee: € 2 (including a brochure in English).
|The Rural Park Betancuria (Parque Rural de Betancuria)|
|The Rural Park Betancuria is shared between the municipalities of Betancuria and Puerto del Rosario.|
Go to Rural Park Betancuria.
|The village of Valle de Santa Inés|
|The village of Valle de Santa Inés is located north of Betancuria on the road FV-30. It has about 400 inhabitants; people traditionally lived basketry and manufacturing furnaces.|
You can visit the St. Agnes Chapel (Ermita de Santa Inés) built about 1586. The chapel probably owes its name to Inés Peraza de Las Casas wife of Diego García de Herrera, lord of the island in the second half of the sixteenth century. The sacristy and the bell tower date back to the eighteenth century.
|Betancuria was founded in 1404 by the Norman Jean de Béthencourt and Gadifer de La Salle, conquerors of the island of Fuerteventura - after that of Lanzarote in 1402 - by their victory over the heads of the two kingdoms of the island, Ayose and Guise. Betancuria was thus the second city founded by Europeans in the Canaries, after the city of Rubicón in southern Lanzarote. Béthencourt made it his capital and there built his residence and chapel in which he placed a statue of the Virgin brought from France. Gadifer de La Salle built a defense tower called Valtarajal. Nothing remains of these buildings.|
Jean de Béthencourt and his partner had led these conquests for themselves, seeking to supply the Archil, a lichen producing widely used in their stronghold of Normandy dye. However, June 14, 1405, Béthencourt swore allegiance to the king of Castile, Henry III (Enrique III), which granted him the title "King of the Canary Islands’; the Canaries were attached to the kingdom of Castile. The conquest of the other islands of the archipelago is made from Fuerteventura.
During the fifteenth century, Franciscan Friars settled in Betancuria, widened the city and made it home to the evangelization of the Canary Islands.
Jean de Béthencourt had chosen this place in the mountains for strategic reasons, so that the capital was more easily defended against pirate attacks, but the proximity of the North African coast was from Fuerteventura easy prey for Barbary pirates who managed to repeatedly overcome the natural defenses of Betancuria. Thus, in 1593, the pirate Jabán managed to enter and to burn down the whole city, and to the church Santa María.
In the eighteenth century, between 1720 and 1723 Betancuria was the scene of violent sedition following the precarious living conditions of the population and lack of food.
Despite its loss of economic influence, Betancuria remained the capital of Fuerteventura until 1834, when the capital was moved to various cities (Antigua, La Oliva...) and finally, in 1860, in Puerto de Cabras, the current Puerto del Rosario.
|The main activities of the inhabitants of the town in Betancuria are agriculture and livestock. The population is concentrated in the two main valleys: Valle de Santa Inés and Betancuria - Vega de Río Palmas; these valleys are covered with terraced fields, in which agriculture is practiced irrigation from wells operated by wind turbines. We grow potatoes, corn and especially alfalfa for cattle feed. Livestock farming is concentrated in the hills where pastors seek to preserve the cactus used as food for livestock. Tourism is only one hotel infrastructure without passing activity.|
|The tourism office|
|The tourist office is at the entrance of the village.|
Hours: 10 am to 16 pm. Closed Thursday and Sunday.
|Bus number 2 passes Betancuria three times a day (except Sundays) on its path between Puerto del Rosario and Vega de Río Palmas.|
Price: € 2.50; duration: 50 min.
|A complimentary car park is laid out south of the center of Betancuria.|
|Weather and forecasts|
|The restaurant Casa Santa María|
|La Casa Santa María is perhaps the most beautiful restaurant in Fuerteventura. The property is housed in a beautiful seventeenth-century farmhouse tastefully renovated and located in the historic center of Betancuria, opposite the old church Santa María la Antigua.|
There is a restaurant renowned for the quality of its dishes, a cafeteria where you can enjoy pancakes, and a bar, all decorated in a remarkably warm and refined country style. Tables are set in several patios with fountains and lush vegetation of plants and flowers.
|The dining room is a sumptuous room with stone walls, with a restored wooden ceiling with care and decorated with antiques.|
The restaurant offers traditional Canarian cuisine using goat used in all its forms, grilled fried cheese, including its specialty “cabrito al horno” (roast kid).
|Restaurant Casa Santa María|
Address: Plaza Santa María de Betancuria, 1. Opposite the church, on the other side of the square.
Phone: 00 34 928 878 282
Site on the Web: www.casasantamaria.net
Hours: daily, 11 am to 16 pm; evenings by reservation.
main courses from 18 to 22 €.
Meals: at 25 to 60 € menu; the card 30 to € 50.
| The restaurant Valtarajal|
|The restaurant Valtarajal offers large tapas (raciónes) from € 5, goat meat dishes and homemade cakes. It is named after the castle Valtarajal, the first building built in Betancuria by Gadifer de La Salle.|
Address: Calle Roberto Roldán, 21
Phone: 00 34 928 878 007