Agaete is located in the northwest of Gran Canaria. We have visited several towns on our trip to the north, so we choose primarily for the little port of Agaete: Puerto de las Nieves. We follow the signposts so strictly that we almost reach the boat that sails to Tenerife four times a day.
In the center of the village we are greeted from afar by a helpful local resident, who takes us to one of the few free parking places and claims 2 EUR parking fee. We are in a good mood and give him his pleasure.
The harbor was the place where Pedro de Vera landed in 1481 and built a first fortified tower on the beach. Until the middle of the 17th century it was one of the most important places from which sugar was exported to the most important European ports (Genoa, Lisbon, London, Antwerp).
Nowadays the restaurants along the quay are inviting. It is one of the few places where we have the impression that they are not really tourist traps. The prices are low. A sandy beach is located beyond the pier. Behind that beach is the Roque de las Nieves. At first, we thought that this is the Dedo de Dios (the finger of god), which is mentioned in our guide. The restaurant with the same name in the village center does not bother to correct us.
However, the only real Dedo de Dios (the finger of God), a 30-meter-high rock, lies a bit further down the imposing rocky coast. This real finger appears to be broken off, during the passage of the tropical storm Delta in 2005. The photo on the top right shows the original copy.
The rocky coast is really impressive. The cliffs rise vertically from the sea and go up hundreds of meters. On the upper edge you can see the pine trees of the Tamadaba nature park.
In the center of the village there is a chapel, the Ermita de Nuestra Senora de las Nieves, dating back to the period just after the conquest of Gran Canaria by the Spaniards. The chapel was rebuilt several times and got its current form in the 19th century.
Most guides also refer to a 'triptych of the Flemish artist Joos van Cleve' that would be in the Ermita de la Nuestra Senora de las Nieves. More information is not in the guides, but the information boards on the spot fortunately bring a fuller story.
The triptych was ordered in 1535 by Anton Cerezo, a merchant who gained his wealth through the trade in sugar, which was extracted from the sugar cane cultivated in Gran Canaria. It is attributed to Joos van Cleve, who in 1519 had become dean of the Antwerp painter's guild.
In the 18th or 19th century, however, the central panel was cut, so that the image of the virgin could be carried in the annual procession. The images of the clients (left Anton Cerezo and his son, his wife Sancha Diaz de Zorita on the right) were also retained. On the side panels that have been preserved are Saint Anthony and Christopher (left panel) and Franciscus (right panel). Under the triptych there would have been another panel with the presentation of the last supper, but this has been lost.
In the Ermita de Nuestra Senora de las Nieves is currently only a replica of the artwork. The chapel is only open from 11 am to 1 pm, so it seems we are going to miss it. However, we do not give up and go to the tourist office of Puerto de las Nieves. The friendly lady tells us that the original of the painting is currently hanging in the Iglesia de la Conception in Agaete. We are lucky, because later in the evening there is a mass, so we still have a chance to visit the artwork.
We drive to the center of Agaete, where we are welcomed to the church by an 85-year-old volunteer. The artwork is kept in a small closed side chapel of the church. He tells us that the work has recently been restored. During that restoration, the painting was restored to its original state. Apparently it had been 'painted over' many times over the centuries. The result is absolutely magnificent: a masterpiece from the period between the Flemish Primitives and Rubens, that would not be out of place in any museum.
The church of Agaete, the Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Conception, dates back to the 16th century and was built in Mudejar style (which is a style in which Muslim and Christian art forms have been referenced). After a fire in 1874 it was completely rebuilt in its current form, with a large red dome, which contrasts nicely with the white houses of the town.
View on Agaete
Iglesia de nostra Senhora
In Agaete there are a few other places that we will have to keep for a next visit:
There are also some coffee plantations near Agaete. It is the only place in Europe where coffee is grown, and that from the 19th century. Originally, the coffee plants were used to border plots and protect other plants from the wind.
Do you want to visit such a coffee plantation or just drink a coffee? Then go to the Finca los Castanos, also called the Coffee Plantation School. You will find it along the GC-231 two kilometers outside the center of Agaete.