Saint John Baptist Church

The church: Known as the "Cathedral of Arucas", it constitutes the faithful testimony of the local farmers (stonemasons) and the commitment of a people who saw the erection of their temple of prayer.

The church of St. John the Baptist, built entirely by hand, is loyal testimony both of the skills of its builders and the determination of the local inhabitants, who witnessed the construction of their place of worship. It was Francisco Gourié Marrero and the parish priest, Francisco Cárdenes Herrera, who had the idea of building the new temple. The Board approved the project presented by Catalan architect Manuel Vega y March in 1908, and commissioned architect Fernando Navarro to supervise the construction process. The church is now on the same site as the original parish, built on April 18, 1515 by Don Fernando Vázquez de Arce, the Bishop of the Canary Islands. The old temple deteriorated badly, and was too small to house the current population of Arucas, and it was demolished in 1909 so that the new church could be built.

Building started on March 19, 1909 and it was consecrated in 1917. Building continued, however, for nearly another sixty years. The style chosen by Vega y March was neo-Gothic. [Antigua Parroquia de Arucas] The church, with a centralised ground plan, has two different heights and is characterised by its four facades framed by two pointed towers. The principal facade looks out over the Plaza de San Juan. However, access is through the west face, and the interior of the building is laid out accordingly. The southern facade, which looks out over the Parque de la Paz, is based on a similar architectural design, whereas the eastern wall is of less artistic significance.

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When we enter the doorway which leads to the interior of the temple, we find, on both sides of the main door, two inscriptions commemorating the date when the first stone was laid and the date when the church was consecrated. This facade consists of a large doorway formed by pointed arches, beneath a row of small windows below an enormous ball flower seven metres in diameter and a gable with a vaulted niche in the centre, all crowned by a cross. In turn, the entire facade is guarded by the Clock Tower (S-W) and the Baptistery Tower (N-W), both of them octagonal and of different widths. The images in the niches are: the Virgin and Child (South), St. Joseph and Child (West) and St. Sebastian (North). They were sculpted in white stone by Ramón Bastús.

The southern facade is distinguished by a nearly 180-feet high (60 metres) bell tower built on the south-east corner. The building work on this bell tower was supervised by Rafael Massanet. Work started on the foundations in 1930, and it was completed in 1977. We have to thank the hard work of the builders for the configuration of this enormous stone structure, and the beauty of its decorations. The most important of these so-called “master builders” included Sebastián Quesada, Miguel Santana, Pedro Morales Déniz and Francisco Santana.


The temple is an interesting artistic legacy in itself. The building forms a nearly perfect square, to which a semi-circular deambulatory has been added on the eastern side, together with two narrow rectangles on the northern and southern sides, to house the side doors. The stained glass windows are an outstanding feature. They were installed between 1916 and 1928, as a result of the relationship between Francisco Gourié and Maumejean et Fréres. The Church of St. John the Baptist was the first in Gran Canaria with stained glass windows manufactured by this French firm.

The works of art housed by the Church include the Christ on the Cross which presides over the main altar, which dates from the end of the 16th century. As we enter the Church, and to our right, we find the Carmen Chapel, part of the Clock Tower. Light enters the stained glass windows which represent, among others, the Virgin of Mt. Carmel and Father Antonio María Claret, in commemoration of a visit he made to Arucas in 1848. The remains of parish priest Francisco Cárdenas are buried here, as a tribute to his enthusiastic work when the temple was built.

The neo-Gothic style altarpiece enthrones an image of the Virgin of Mt. Carmel. On each side there is a small pedestal with St. Elijah with the sword (to the left) and Saint Theresa (to the right). The Chapel of St. John the Baptist, rectangular in shape, houses an image of the saint on a small altar. The image was sculpted in Malaga, and exhibited for public worship on Sunday, June 23, 1848. When we cross the side door, we find the Chapel of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, containing images of St. Lucia and St. Sebastian. Our attention is particularly attracted to St. Lucia, because of the exquisite gold leaf floral motifs on her robes.

The centre of the deambulatory is given over to a chapel dedicated to the Passion of Christ, forming a semi-apse with a stained glass window. Facing the neo-Gothic altarpiece we find a fine image of Christ Recumbent, by the local sculptor Manuel Ramos González (1899-1971). Made in wood, around 1940, it is renowned for its elegance and the expressive power of the figure’s head. In the Chapel of the Virgin of the Rosary, in the north-eastern tower, we find an image of the Virgin of the same name, sculpted by Canary Island artist Juan Manuel de Silva from the wood of a cypress tree growing in the garden of the Dominican Convent of St. Peter, Martyr, in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. The Chapel of St. Francis of Assisi contains the only Baroque altarpiece in the Church, probably from the 18th century [Cristo Yacente de Manolo Ramos] .

We finally come to the Baptistery Chapel, which houses important artistic items behind its bars. The centre houses a font which dates from 1862. The stone used was taken from the Lomo de Tomás de León quarries. Three magnificent paintings hang on its walls, all by Canary Island artist Cristóbal Hernández de Quintana (1651-1725), a panel representing the Virgin and Child next to a painting of St. Joseph and Child and a painting of the Holy Family.

To summarise, the Church of St. John the Baptist is well worth visiting, not only because of the grandeur of its stone structure which has often led to it being referred to as a “cathedral”, but also because of the artistic treasures it houses.