Religion in the Canary Islands

As in the rest of Spain, the majority religion in the Canary Islands is the Catholic Church.[2][3] The Catholic religion has been the majority since the Conquest of the Canary Islands in the fifteenth century. This religion would largely replace the Canarian aboriginal religion through the prohibition of the latter and syncretism. According to a survey conducted in 2015, Canary Islands is the second autonomous community in Spain with the highest percentage of people who declare themselves to be Catholics after the Region of Murcia, with 84.9% of the population.[4]

Religion in the Canary Islands (2012)[1]

  Catholicism (84%)
  Non-believers (7.8%)
  Atheists (4.5%)
  Other religions (1.0%)

In the Canary Islands there are also minorities of other religions, such as Islam,[5] Evangelical Churches,[5] Hinduism,[5] Afro-American religion,[5] Chinese Religions,[5] Buddhism,[5] Bahaism[5] and Judaism,[5] as well as the existence in the archipelago of a form of autochthonous neo-paganism, the Church of the Guanche People. The Canary Islands is currently one of the regions with the greatest religious diversity in Spain and Europe.

Religious self-definition

According to a Metroscopy survey of 2011, which conducts social studies:[6]

  • 77% of the Canaries consider themselves believers in any of the religions
  • 19% are atheists
  • Of the respondents, 71% of the islanders identify with some religion
  • 28% do not identify with any religion

Therefore, there is a 6% difference between people who identify with some religion and those who believe in some divinity.

According to the Autonomous Barometer of the CIS, the distribution of beliefs in 2012 was as follows:[7]

  • 84.9% Catholics
  • 7.8% Non-believers
  • 4.5% Atheists
  • 1.7% Other religions

Among believers, 38.7% often go to religious services.

Canarian aboriginal religion

The original religion practiced by the native or aboriginal peoples of the archipelago (Guanches) was a belief of animistic and polytheistic type, with a strong presence of astral cult.

This religiosity sacralized certain places, mainly rock and mountains, such as the volcano Teide in Tenerife, the Idafe Rock in La Palma, the Bentayga Rock in Gran Canaria or the mountain of Tindaya in Fuerteventura. They also held sacred the trees, among which the drago and the pine stand out. There was a pantheon of different gods and ancestral spirits; among the main gods for example of the island of Tenerife, we could highlight: Achamán (god of heaven and supreme creator), Chaxiraxi (mother goddess later identified with the Virgin of Candelaria), Magec (god of the sun) and Guayota (the demon) among many other gods and ancestral spirits. It was also practiced the cult of the dead and the mummification of corpses, in this aspect was on the island of Tenerife where it reached greater perfection.[8] It should also be noted the manufacture of clay or stone idols.


The Christianization of the Canary Islands is linked to the process of conquest, although the presence of Christian elements in the archipelago dates back at least a century before its incorporation into the Crown of Castile.

The first news that speaks of the introduction of Christianity in the islands dates from 1351, that year Pope Clement VI created the Bishopric of the Islands of Fortune or Bishopric of Telde on the island of Gran Canaria. The Bishopric of Telde was basically a project of evangelization of the Canary Islands of Mallorcan and Catalan missionaries, which failed because of the piratical raids of the Europeans who angered the natives. This situation led to the martyrdom of thirteen Catalan hermit missionaries who were thrown by the aborigines to the abyss of Jinámar in 1393.[9]

Later the Norman conquerors Jean de Béthencourt and Gadifer de la Salle arrived on the island of Lanzarote. After the conquest of the island in 1402 a small church or hermitage was established in the Rubicon Castle, which later acquired the title of cathedral by papal concession, dedicated to Saint Martial. The Antipope Benedict XIII so decides in a bull issued on July 7, 1404 when he created the Diocese of San Marcial del Rubicón.[10] Thereafter, Aboriginal leaders subdued on the islands of Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, La Gomera and El Hierro will be baptized, as well as their followers.

In 1424, Pope Martin V erected in Betancuria the Bishopric of Fuerteventura, which encompassed all the Canary Islands except the island of Lanzarote.[11] This bishopric was abolished just seven years after it was created in 1431.[11]

In the mid-fifteenth century there is evidence of the presence of Christian missionaries in the western Canary Islands, because around 1450 is based in the area of the modern municipality of Candelaria in Tenerife a hermitage consisting of three friars led by friar Alfonso de Bolaños, considered the «Apostle of Tenerife». These religious lived among the Guanches, speaking their language and baptizing many of them. This mission would last until near the beginning of the conquest of this island.[12] It is at this time when most researchers locate the finding of the image of the Virgin of Candelaria by the Guanches of Tenerife and the Virgin of the Snows by aborigines of the island of La Palma, both possibly carried to these islands by Mallorcan or Catalan missionaries. The Virgin of Candelaria would enjoy a considerable religious and cultural importance in the archipelago, to the point that in 1599 she had been declared Patron Saint of the Canary Islands by Pope Clement VIII, a title ratified in 1867 by Pius IX.[12]

In 1485, after the conquest of Gran Canaria, Pope Innocent VIII definitively authorized the transfer of the diocesan seat from San Marcial del Rubicón to Las Palmas. The name of the diocese was changed to be called Diocese Canariense-Rubicense, making reference to the island where its headquarters would be from that moment, that is, Gran Canaria, but retaining in its name its origin, the Rubicón.[9]

From here the Christianization of the islands of La Palma and Tenerife would begin. The Christianization of the Canary Islands was quick and complete. Insular Catholicism has given two saints to the Church up to the present: José de Anchieta (1534-1597)[13] and Peter of Saint Joseph de Betancur (1626-1667).[14] Both, born on the island of Tenerife, were missionaries respectively in Brazil and Guatemala.

In the nineteenth century a new bishopric was founded in the Canary Islands, the Diocese of San Cristobal de La Laguna in 1819.[15] Although the origins of creating a diocese based in Tenerife began shortly after the conquest of the Canary Islands, it was the same Alonso Fernández de Lugo (conqueror of this island) who in 1513 asked the Court to erect a new diocese on the island of Tenerife. However, this project would always have the opposition of the Grancanarian bishop.[16] From this moment, the Canary Islands was divided into two dioceses: The Diocese Canariense-Rubicense that encompasses the eastern islands (Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote) and Diocese of San Cristóbal of La Laguna or Nivariense that encompasses the western islands (Tenerife, La Gomera, La Palma and El Hierro).

In the Canary Islands, religious devotions of great tradition in history and culture are particularly important, such as the Virgin of Candelaria and the Christ of La Laguna in Tenerife, the Virgin of the Pine in Gran Canaria, the Virgin of the Snows in La Palma, the Virgin of La Peña in Fuerteventura, the Virgin of Guadalupe in La Gomera, the Our Lady of Dolours in Lanzarote and the Virgin of the Kings in El Hierro. Many of the Canarian festivities have a Catholic religious background, such as the romerias and the tradition of the bajadas of some images of the island patrons worshiped in the archipelago.

Other religions

The strategic situation of the archipelago in the commercial routes and its condition as a bridge of union between Europe, Africa and America motivated the establishment in the islands of merchants and merchants of various religions, including Jews and Protestants.[2]

Other Christian denominations

The presence of Anglican communities in the archipelago dates back to the late sixteenth century, although it will be from the nineteenth century when it will take more boom. The first Anglican communities arrived in the Canary Islands were established mainly in the cities of Puerto de la Cruz, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and to a lesser extent in Santa Cruz de La Palma.[17]

In the city of Puerto de la Cruz in the north of the island of Tenerife would be built at the end of the nineteenth century the first temple intended for the Anglican cult in the Canaries, the Church of All Saints. In addition, this city also has the oldest Anglican cemetery in the archipelago. Later, others were built, such as the Anglican Chapel of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the Church of San Jorge in Santa Cruz de Tenerife (today a Catholic temple).

Regarding Evangelicalism, the majority of Evangelical churches in the Canary Islands arrived in the second half of the 20th century,[2] among which the following stand out: The Assembly of God, the Philadelphia Church of God, the Pentecostal Church, the Baptists, the Body Church of Christ, the Salvation Army, etc.[2] There are also national churches of the Scandinavian countries such as the Church of Sweden, the Church of Norway, the German Evangelical Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland.[2]

The Orthodox Church is also present, although it is the Christian community that has most recently established itself in the archipelago, most of them at the beginning of the 21st century,[2] including the Russian Orthodox Church, the Romanian Orthodox Church and the new Orthodox Church of the Canary Islands, which is a small community within the Spanish Orthodox Church, under the jurisdiction of the Serbian Orthodox Church and in communion with the universal Orthodox Church. Its headquarters is in Las Caletillas (municipality of Candelaria in Tenerife).

There are also small communities of Jehovah's Witnesses and those belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,[2] of which there are 2,300 members in the Canary Islands. On the island of Tenerife there are three Mormon centers: in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Los Cristianos and San Cristóbal de La Laguna, the latter is the only one in the Canary Islands built expressly as such.[18] In the island of Gran Canaria there are three other centers: Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Telde and Vecindario and one on the island of Fuerteventura in Puerto del Rosario.


Islam is currently the second religion most practiced in the archipelago after Catholicism.[6]

The Muslim communities were originally established definitively in the Canary Islands on Tenerife and Gran Canaria between the 19th and 20th centuries. Later on Fuerteventura and Lanzarote, and later on La Palma.[2]

Currently, the Islamic Federation of the Canary Islands is the religious organization that brings together the associations and communities of the Canarian archipelago,[19] with an estimated 70,000 Muslims living in the Canary Islands with 40 mosques and places of worship. long of the archipelago.[20]


Judaism came to the Canary Islands in the 15th century with the conquest, from the converted Jews who moved from the Iberian Peninsula and who would continue practicing their ancient religion in secret. Originally, the Canarian Jews used to reside mainly in the islands of Tenerife and La Palma,[21] it is known that the mother of the future Catholic saint, José de Anchieta, a missionary in Brazil born in San Cristobal de La Laguna, Tenerife, was a descendant of Jewish converts.[22]

However, just as in the rest of Spain, the Jews would suffer persecution from the Holy Inquisition, although to a much lesser extent than in the Iberian Peninsula. The current community of Sephardic origin in the Canary Islands began to settle in the islands in the middle of the 20th century.[21]

Oriental religions

The Canary Islands is the region with the largest community of Hindus in Spain, in fact, almost half of the country's Hindus live in the archipelago,[2] and Hinduism came to the Canary Islands from the Indian merchants who settled on the islands from the decade of the 70 of the XIX century. These are initially concentrated around the free ports of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Santa Cruz de Tenerife, to later settle in other places on the islands.

Buddhism is considered a relatively recent religion in the Canary Islands, as the first communities belonging to this religion began to be counted in the 80s of the 20th century. At present, the Tibetan schools stand out. In 2005 two canarian Buddhist converts were recognized as dharma teachers by the relevant Buddhist institution. These are Francisco Mesa (Denkō Mesa) and Alejandro Torrealba (Acharya Dharmamitra Dhiraji), both leaders of Buddhist centers in Tenerife and Gran Canaria respectively.[2]

There is also a presence of traditional Chinese religions among immigrants from this country dedicated to trade and faithful belonging to the Bahá'í faith.[2]

African American religions

Due to the strong link existing with Latin American countries such as Cuba and Venezuela, there is a presence in the islands of African-American practices such as Santería, Voodoo, Candomblé, Palo Mayombe and Venezuelan Spiritism.[2]


Freemasonry has had a great influence on the development of the history of the archipelago especially between the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Masonic Temple of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, was the largest Masonic center in Spain[23] before it was occupied by the military of the Franco regime.[24]

There are other small religious communities qualified as sects, such as the Church of Scientology (of which its founder L. Ron Hubbard visited the Canary Islands several times between the 60s and the 70s of the 20th century)[25] and the Order of the Solar Temple,[26] among others.

Especially singular is the Church of the Guanche People, a neo-pagan religion founded in 2001 that tries to implement the Canarian aboriginal religion as an ethnic religion in the current Canarian society.[27]

See also


  1. "Barometro Autonómico del CIS Canarias (2012); preguntas 47 y 48".
  2. "Religiones entre continentes. Minorías religiosas en Canarias. Editado por la Universidad de La Laguna" (PDF).
  3. Información turística de España
  4. Interactivo: Creencias y prácticas religiosas en España
  5. "Un 5% de canarios profesa una religión minoritaria".
  6. "El Islam es la segunda religión más practicada en Canarias".
  7. "Barometro Autonómico del CIS Canarias (2012); preguntas 47 y 48".
  8. "Las momias guanches más antiguas de Canarias se conservan en Tenerife". Canarias7. Informaciones Canarias, S.A. 8 June 2012.
  9. San Marcial del Rubicón y los Obispados de Canarias
  10. La Iglesia en las Islas Canarias. Editado por la Diócesis de Canarias
  11. El Cisma de Occidente y el Obispado de Fuerteventura
  12. Rumeu de Armas, Antonio (1975). "VI-XIII-XV". La Conquista de Tenerife (1494-1496) (1ª ed.). Aula de Cultura de Tenerife. pp. 155–171, 291–294, 350–354. ISBN 84-500-7108-9.
  13. "José de Anchieta, Santo".
  14. "Pedro de San José Betancurt, Santo".
  15. Darías y Padrón, Dacio V.; Rodríguez Moure, José; Benítez Inglott, Luis (1957). Historia de la religión en Canarias (in Spanish). Santa Cruz de Tenerife: Cervantes. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  16. La Diócesis de San Cristóbal de La Laguna en los inicios del siglo XIX: el Obispo Folgueras Sión, el Cabildo Catedral y la jurisdicción eclesiástica
  17. Aglicanismo en Canarias Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine
  18. Los hermanos de Mitt Romney
  19. Congreso de inauguración de la Federación Islamica de Canarias (Tenerife)
  20. Entrevista al Señor Tijani El Bouji Presidente de FIDC
  21. Judíos de Canarias. Historia de los judíos de Canarias. Hoy 30 de Mayo es el día de Canarias.
  22. San José de Anchieta – 9 de junio
  23. El templo masónico, bien de interés cultural
  24. El templo masónico, bien de interés cultural
  25. Cienciólogos en Tenerife
  26. Historia oculta de Canarias
  27. La Iglesia del Pueblo Guanche. Consideraciones metodológicas. Gobierno de Canarias.
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