The city of Arrecife in Lanzarote - The St. Joseph Castle (San José)
|St. Joseph Castle (Castillo de San José) is a small fortification, built in the late eighteenth century, to protect the new port of The town of Arrecife in Lanzarote.|
|St. Joseph Castle (Castillo de San José)|
|In 1762, during the Anglo-Spanish War of 1761-1763, the port of Naos to Arrecife was attacked by the English. The inability of the island authorities to make the necessary fortifications, the Spanish King Carlos III - who reigned from 1759 until his death in 1788 - took the decision to build a fortress to protect the entrance of Puerto Naos. Military reasons were not the only reasons for this decision: the construction of the fort was to give work to the people of Lanzarote which had suffered years of severe economic crisis in years 1768 and 1771; this crisis due to drought had led to famine. It is for this reason that the Castillo de San José is nicknamed the “Fortaleza del Hambre” (Hunger Fortress).|
The Fort St. Joseph is located on a basalt promontory at the edge of a steep cliff 70 meters high, above a place called the “Cueva de Inés” (Cave of Agnes). The promontory perfectly overlooks the bay and the main entrance of the port of Naos. The Castillo de San José is now at the northeastern boundary of the city of Arrecife, about 2 km from the city center.
From 1742, a captain of engineers, Antonio La Rivière, had noticed the interest of this location and had identified a plan. In 1767, Lieutenant Colonel engineering Alejandro de los Ángeles went to Puerto Naos and foresaw install a battery above the Cueva de Inés. In 1771, after the decision of Carlos III to build the fortress, the engineer Joseph Ruiz Cermeño came to Arrecife to undertake the project. Construction - sometimes attributed erroneously to the military engineer Claudio de Lisle - began in 1774 and was completed under the direction of the engineer Alfonso Ochando in 1779.
The Castillo de San José played a small role during the “Guerra Chica” (Little War) between Spain and Moroccan rebels; the fort became an armory and a powder magazine, whose military role then decreased at the end of the nineteenth century and the twentieth century. The fort was abandoned, then was saved by an association, “Los Amigos de los Castillos” (Friends of the Castles). In 1974 the artist César Manrique did rehabilitate the fort into a museum of contemporary art.
The Castillo de San José stands as a fortress with two floors, almost rectangular, with walls three planes and a semicircular wall, the wall facing the ocean. The wall of the side of the earth has a façade that opens a portal accessible by a drawbridge crossing a gap of 4 meters deep; this facade is topped by two watchtowers at the corners of the platform artillery; above the entrance gate is a warning bell tower topped by two bullets style “herreriano”. The entire fortress occupies an area of 700 m².
The entrance through the drawbridge leads to a large hall, covered by a barrel vault without pillars, called up area, where there were areas of the garrison and officers, rooms and kitchens. Below the ground floor, in the basement, there is a second vaulted room that served as a warehouse and powder magazine.
Since the garrison area a staircase leads to the large platform surrounded by an artillery parapet with ten slots for guns; besides the two watchtowers facing the ground, the platform has two turrets on the side of the sea. From the platform the view extends to the fishing port of Naos and from the port of Commerce Los Mármoles.
|The International Museum of Contemporary Art (Museo Internacional de Arte Contemporáneo)|
|In 1968, the artist César Manrique proposed to transform the Castillo de San José contemporary art museum, to revive this historical monument, giving it a new function. The restoration and transformation began immediately, César Manrique care not to alter the original structure of the fort.|
The International Museum of Contemporary Art (Museo Internacional de Arte Contemporáneo, MIAC) was officially inaugurated December 8, 1976 in the presence of prestigious names in contemporary art: Pierre Alechinski, Francis Bacon, Fernando Botero, Pepe Dámaso, Óscar Domínguez, Juana Francés, Julio Le Parc, César Manrique, Manolo Millares, Joan Miró, Manuel Mompó, Pablo Picasso, Manuel Rivera, Antoni Tàpies...
The general opinion of critics and artists, the thick walls and large dark vaults of the old fort offer a nice contrast to the exhibitions of contemporary artists.
|In front of the museum, visitors can see the abstract sculptures of three contemporary artists: José Abad, Baltasar Lobo and Amador A. Rodriguez.|
The four rooms of the MIAC are home to the largest collection of abstract art in the Canary Islands, with permanent and temporary exhibitions of paintings and sculptures of the second half of the twentieth century and early twenty-first century, including works of the period 1960s to the 1970s. The collection includes important styles of contemporary abstract art: Constructivism, Op Art, Informalism, Surrealism, Pop Art ...
You can see the works of painters and sculptors such as Francisco Barón, Agustín Cárdenas, Eduardo Chillida, Martín Chirino, Óscar Domínguez, Amadeo Gabino, José Guerrero, Baltasar Lobo, Manuel (« Manolo ») Millares, Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso, Pancho Lasso, Gerardo Rueda, Eusebio Sempere, Antoni Tàpies, Gustavo Torner, Cristino de Vera and, of course, César Manrique himself.
The museum also has a concert hall and conference which hosts chamber music recitals and modern music.
|The Castillo de San José is the only tourist attraction of Arrecife which is a bit far from the city center - about 2 km north-east on the coastal road to Costa Teguise - and that requires a conveyance; Bus line # 1 to Arrecife to Costa Teguise has a stop near the fort.|
Address: Avenida de Puerto Naos, s/n.
Hours: open daily from 10 am to 20 pm. Boutique, 10 am to 18 pm.
Admission: adults € 4; Children 7 to 12 years, 2 €.
Phone: 00 34 928 812 321
|Restaurant Qué Muac|
|Fort St. Joseph, nicknamed “the Hunger Fortress” also features a fine restaurant ...|
The restaurant Castillo de San José is located in the lower level of the fortress, with large windows overlooking the bay and the fishing port of Naos and the commercial port of Los Mármoles. The restaurant has been designed in a modern style in 1976 by César Manrique. Even decades after its creation, decor, combining wood and volcanic rock, and furniture, with curved shapes, are pleasing to the eye and create a charming atmosphere, especially when the room is flooded with light. The staff wears an elegant livery, which increases the refined character of the place. In 2014, the restaurant was renewed under the name Qué Muac; it offers Canarian and international cuisine.
Phone: 00 34 928 812 321; it is recommended to make reservations well in advance.
Restaurant hours: daily, 13 am to 16 h and 19 h to 23 h 30. You can access the restaurant from the museum by a spiral staircase; when the museum is closed we can reach the restaurant by a side passage. The restaurant closing hours, a cafeteria is available.
Hours cafeteria: 10 am to 24 pm.