Local history: The Tazacorte Martyrs

Tazacorte martyrs: Father Acevedo gives the relics to Don Melchor.
Father Acevedo gives the relics to Don Melchor.

In 1570, a party of Jesuit missionaries were on their way from Portugal to Brazil. They broke their journey in Puerto de Tazacorte. It was an unplanned stop: they’d been heading for Santa Cruz de la Palma, but the winds were against them.

On arrival in Tazacorte, Fr. Acevedo was amazed to find that the owner of the estate was an old friend from Oporto, don Melchor de Monteverde y Pruss. Don Melchor invited the priest to stay, and the priest gave him a small chest of relics.

Tazacorte martyrs: Father Acevedo has a vision of his impending martyrdom
Father Acevedo has a vision of his impending martyrdom

Fr. Acevedo said mass in the chapel of Our Lady of Anguish (Nuestra Senñora de Angustias). As he raised the chalice, he had a vision of impending martyrdom, and bit the chalice. His teeth marks are still on it.

Once in Tazacorte, they discussed the possibility of travelling to Santa Cruz over land, but decided to sail instead, in spite of the rumours of pirates in the area. I think this says a lot about the footpaths at the time.

Tazacorte martyrs: The missionaries meet the pirates
The missionaries meet the pirates

On July, 15th, they set sail for Santa Cruz, but the wind was still against them, and they made slow progress. Two days later they saw sails, which turned out to be boats belonging to a French pirate, Jacques Sourie.

Sourie had his men search the ship for anyone wearing a black cassock. Some were killed outright, and others had their arms hacked off before they were thrown into the sea to drown. John Sánchez was the only survivor, and only because the pirates needed a cook. So he cooked for them until they got back to La Rochelle, in France, where he escaped and made his way back to Portugal to tell the gruesome tale.

The martyr’s relics are preserved in the church of San Miguel and in the the chapel of Nuestra Señora de Las Angustias. These paintings are on display in Tazacorte church.

Tazacorte martyrs: The martyrs go to heaven
The martyrs go to heaven

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