Cenobio de Valerón: the Canarian “Caves Monastery”

The name Cenobio de Valerón it’s used to define the entire system of caves that you can find 600 meters inside the northern coast of San Felipe, along the road GC-291 (this point on G Maps, it’s very easy to arrive from both Galdar or Las Palmas).

The site overlooks the San Felipe ravine, crossed over by a large bridge for the GC-2 (Northern Highway). The place is located under a natural 30 meters arch of stone, 25 meters high, and it was chosen from the Canarii for its material that is easy to dig and work, as well as for the fact that it’s naturally hidden from the sea and it has a strict access, that make it a perfect self-made defense.

It’s composed on several levels: 298 compartments with areas of 1 to 3 squared meters, distributed on eight levels. It’s a mix of silos (principally grain and cereals), rooms and other small cavities, for a total of more than 350 storage places. All of them were excavated with stone and wood tools in the tuff on the north-west face of the Mountain of the Galician.

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The holes (caves or silos) are of different forms and sizes, communicating with each other, and they are built on eight levels. The steps excavated in the rock still exist, even if now it’s allowed to walk and stay only on the modern steps.

All along the terrace there are explanation showcases for the ancient’s lifestyle, the most common uses of this place and also to describe the entire project of recovery that finally gave this amazing result! The caves were shut with doors made of wood or stone, prepared in mortars. For a long time the material was unknown, then studying the rests the scientists could say it was made of wood, stone slabs or soft materials like textile or leather. As deeper proofs, the archeologists have found some stone slabs and it seems that when wooden doors were used they received a seal (pintadera) to indicate the owner of the cave or silos.

Talking about the Canarian pre-hispanic culture, in the site they were found many idols, paintings and ceramics, parts of human bones and ashes that scientists suppose to be the rests of those who were guarding the granary.

The place was called “monastery” from the Romans, because they belief there had lived some celibate priestesses called harimaguadas, with whom young women of noble class came to live until their marriage to preserve the purity. But the real use of the silos was explained only in the 20th century by the French archaeologist Guy Marcy, which then it was the first to recognize its real purpose and use, studying other similar structures in the north of Africa. The North African granaries or agadirs often have a common storage area, guarded by the community to which it belongs.

It’s interesting to notice how the common word Cenobio (literally “monastery”) comes from the latin coenobium and the greek koino-biom (koinos: “common” and bios: “life”), with a pretty clear meaning: it was the pulsating centre where the people used to have a social life, and maybe an internal commerce too.

The first time we read about Cenobio de Valeron is on as a letter from 9 January 1514, when Martin Valeron write to the Central Municipality that he “bought a piece of land from Juan Gonzalez Carnero” describing where was it and asking for the inscription in the registers. In 1573 the same land appears on his testament, as heritage for the sons.

It was declared Historical Artistic Monument on 14 October 1978; in 1985 it became a property of cultural interest in the category “Archaeological site”.
Nowadays the site belongs to the Santa María de Guía’s municipality: in 2010 it started the restoration program that took two years, including the rehabilitation of the historic San Felipe footpath, the same used by the locals to access the caves at that age.

So… how can you get there!?

The main access is through the GC-291 road. You can take a look to the video here, to have an idea, or going on the Youtube Channel… Yes! Because there are more! 😉

On the GC-291 you can find several indications, but maybe can be tricky if you come from other directions. So here’s a map to arrive to Cenobio de Valeron, starting from the principal points of the island!
Click on the menu with the arrow (upper-left side of the map!)

The site is open for visits all the year (Tuesday to Sunday, except for Festivities). As wrote before, nowadays the caves are off-limits for reasons of security and preservation, but you can still enjoy and discovery one of the most characteristic places of Gran Canaria!

Have a great (and safe) trip! 🙂

 

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