The island of Gran Canaria is not only popular for its exclusive beaches, but also for its rural heart and its wide range of water and outdoor sports. But not to be underestimated is its attractive monumental heritage, with the Castillo de la Luz in Las Palmas. Also known as the Fortaleza de la Luz, it is the oldest fortification in the province and has a great history enclosed within its walls. For years it was the only defence for the city of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and its citizens against possible attacks by pirates, corsairs and conquerors.
Declared a Historic-Artistic Monument in 1941, it left its warlike past behind. The Castillo de la Luz in Gran Canaria, located in Calle Juan Rejón, in the popular neighbourhood of La Isleta, has cultural functions. It is now the headquarters of the Fundación de Arte y Pensamiento Martín Chirino and its rooms are used to promote culture and art in the region.
The Castillo de la Luz was built by order of Alonso Fajardo, Marquis of Vélez and governor and chief justice of Gran Canaria. It was around the year 1494 when he built this fortress where the foundations of an ancient and modest tower had been laid by Juan Rejón. This was the founder of the city of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria after his arrival on the island in 1478 and who now gives his name to the street on which this monumental building rests.
The choice of location is by no means accidental. Situated on a coral reef, this fortress was isolated from the mainland when the tide came in. This is no longer the case today and it is surrounded by streets full of tourists, buildings and the important quay of La Luz, a port of transit between three continents – Europe, America and Africa – frequented by sailing ships, cruise liners and ocean liners of enormous dimensions.
The castle was built in a strategic location to protect the city and its people from possible barbarian attacks. In fact, during the first years of its foundation, Gran Canaria only had this castle as a defence. A building with wide, sturdy walls that have withstood sieges by historically renowned pirates such as the British Sir Drake or the Dutch fleet of Peter Van der Does. It is true, however, that its role in these two important attacks, which took place in 1595 and 1599 respectively, was not very decisive.
This monumental jewel of Gran Canaria is one of the great tourist attractions. It was built according to the precepts and requirements of the Renaissance artistic period. You can see that it has a square floor plan and has cubes and cannons. Among its charms is the way to access the fortress, by a drawbridge over a deep moat.
One of the main features to be taken into account and highly valued by visitors is that the building has preserved its original essence since the 15th century. And this is despite the numerous extensions it has undergone over the centuries and the rehabilitation and conservation processes. Thus, it conserves its particular quadrangular floor plan, with yellow ashlar walls and with colourful towers where the watchmen used to set up their watchtowers to look at the horizon and check that there were no enemies. Inside, the most outstanding feature is the parade ground with its cistern, from which there is access to the different rooms and galleries arranged on three levels, including the two floors and the roof.
Initially, this enclave was designed to fulfil a defensive function for the city. However, this could not be the only protection for Gran Canaria, so the castles of Mata, San Cristóbal and San Francisco were soon built for the same purpose. These were integrated into the city walls, which ensured the efficiency of their function to a greater degree. As a result, the Castillo de la Luz began to fall into disuse to the point of being practically abandoned and neglected.
Fortunately, they soon realised the importance and value of this fortress and decided to give it a new life. Restoration work was carried out in 1969, extending its domain with an outer moat and also with new arches. Thus, it was renovated to convert it into an enclave for the promotion of art and culture, so that it became the headquarters of the Martín Chirino Foundation of Art and Thought. This space hosts exhibitions, training projects and other cultural activities designed for all ages.
The Foundation opens its doors to the public on Wednesday afternoons and offers free guided tours of the Castillo de la Luz. The tour takes you through the rooms, highlighting not only the wonders of its walls, but also the work of Martín Chirino. If you’re up for it, you don’t need to book in advance, and you can enjoy this experience just by going to the foundation’s ticket office at 5pm.
Furthermore, there is free access to the site from Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 7 pm, while on Sundays and public holidays it can only be visited from 10 am to 2 pm. If you visit the fortress, you can let yourself be guided by an expert who will explain its wonders to you, or you can also go on your own and rely on the invaluable help of the information contained in the QR codes that you will find at prominent points along the route.
In conclusion, Gran Canaria is a perfect refuge for holidays all year round. Its privileged climate allows you to enjoy its beaches and tourist attractions even in the winter months, with average temperatures of 20 degrees Celsius. Visiting the island is also a great opportunity to get to know the Canary Islands’ culture, traditions and history.
If you are coming to discover this wonderful island and you still don’t know where to stay, the Lopesan Hotel Group’s Gran Canaria hotels have what you need for an incredible holiday, with a wide range of establishments located in Meloneras, Maspalomas, Playa del Inglés and San Agustín.