Category Archives: Esenciales

The Essentials (IV): Description and History of the Kingdom of the Canary Islands

mapa-canarias-cancer

The notorious map of the Canary Islands related to the zodiacal sign of Cancer, by Engineer Leonardo Torriani in the late sixteenth century (source: Biblioteca Geral da Universidade de Coimbra, catalogue number Ms. 314, folio 8r.)

In 1584, King Philip II of Spain commissioned one of his trusted technicians, Engineer Leonardo Torriani (Cremona, Duchy of Milan, c 1560 -. Coimbra, Kingdom of Portugal, 1628), to design and build a keep and a dock on the island of La Palma. This mission, which lasted about two years, was extended by re-hiring the Cremonese in 1587 to carry out a more ambitious project: the inspection of all defensive infrastructure of the Archipelago with the drafting of a comprehensive report on them including expansion and reform proposals.

His stay in the Archipelago lasted about twelve years, until 1596, during which he was provided with the opportunity to acquire a deeper insight on various aspects of its culture and history. Fortunately, in line with the prevailing Baroque style in Italian culture, Torriani decided that a simple technical report would be too arid for the monarch’s taste:

Having been ordered by Your Majesty, in past years, to make the description of the Canary Islands, I felt such small lands, detached from Africa and so lonely, by the smallness of the case, could not be more than scarcely welcomed by You. And so, finding in the monuments of letters how to embellish them, I determined myself to add the story and events that happened on them, until our times, with the views and drawings of their strongholds.[1]TORRIANI (1959), p. 1. This translation by PROYECTO TARHA.

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The Essentials (III): History of the Conquest of the Seven Islands of Gran Canaria

Front cover of the 1848 edition of the History of the Conquest of the Seven Islands of Gran Canaria, by Brother Juan de Abreu Galindo (source: Memoria Digital de Canarias).

It is true that many have claimed telling something about these islands; but they chose whatever suited their matter, and some of them, not having full news about, went brief and although what they said was very little, […] it has been a great argument to mean that not so low karats was the renown of the Isles of Canaria […].

Brother Juan de Abreu Galindo (Prologue to the History of the Conquest of the Seven Islands of Gran Canaria) –1848 Edition–

Leaving little room for doubt, this is perhaps the best known and influential work of the Canarian historiography.

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The Essentials (II): Le Canarien - French Chronicles on the Conquest of the Canaries

Front cover of the first volume of Le Canarien 1959 edition by Professors Elías Serra Ràfols and Alejandro Cioranescu (source: Biblioteca Virtual Viera y Clavijo).

Le Canarien (The Canarian) is the oldest of the known Canarian chronicles. Originally written over six-hundred years ago, it is the first specific account almost entirely devoted to the European conquest of the Archipelago. Its initial authors, two French priests: Jehan Le Verrier and Pierre Boutier, chaplains to the conquest expedition assembled in 1402 by Norman Baron Jehan IV de Béthencourt and his partner, Pictavin Knight Gadifer de La Salle, as both of them admit:

[…] Gadifer de La Sale and Jehan de Béthencourt, knights born in the Kingdom of France, have undertaken this voyage to honor God and for maintenance and increasement of our holy faith, to parts of the South, to certain islands that are on the side thereof, which they call islands of Canaria inhabited by infidels people with different laws and different languages, […] with the intention of turning them and attract them to our faith; That is why this book is called the Canarian. And we, Brother Pierre Boutier, monk of Saint-Juoin-des-Marnes and Mr. Jehan Le Verrier, priests and chaplains and servants of the knights named above, have begun to write down all the things that happened to them from the beginning and the whole form of their government, of which we could have had true knowledge, since they left the Kingdom of France until […] Béthencourt arrived here at the islands; and thereafter came the writing in other hands, that will resume it with all the truth until the end of their conquest.

Le Canarien (text G) –SERRA (1964), pp. 14-16– (this translation by PROYECTO TARHA).

Truth is that those other hands were not as accurate as the original authors expected. In fact, having either the original or originals dissappeared, the two oldest known copies of this account are perfect examples of hagiographic manipulation.

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The Essentials: Chronicles, histories, public documents and studies

 

Act of Bufadero

An example of a public document relevant to the ancient history of the Canary Islands: a fragment of the only-known copy of the so-called Treaty of Bufadero (source: Archivo Histórico Provincial de Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Historical Section of Notarial Protocols , 1178 , fol . 55r )

Under The Essentials epigraph we intend to widespread a series of documents we consider to be cornerstones in understanding the ancient history of the Canary Islands.

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The Essentials (I): Canarias: Crónicas de su conquista

 

Canarias-Cronicas de su conquista-Portada

Cover of the 1978 edition of the work Canarias: Crónicas de su conquista, by Professor Francisco Morales Padrón —source: Memoria Digital de Canarias – Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria—.

As in the New World, the Chronicle is the story of a drama. Because it is the story of the dissappearance of a people. This people has not left us its account on the Conquest. We miss the other side. Who tells is the winner.

[…]

The contents of the Canarian chronicle are similar to those of the Indian’s and the events (relations among conquerors and indigenes, curiosity about the latter’s world, etc.) are a sort of preannouncement of the American affair.

Francisco Morales Padrón –Canarias: Crónicas de su conquista (1978), pp. 14, 54.– (this translation by PROYECTO TARHA)

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