Sunken Crosses of Malpique
This underwater graveyard commemorates a group of murdered 16th-century missionaries.
Forty crosses stand 65 feet (20 meters) below the sea. This is not some old graveyard that got slowly overtaken by the waves as the island collapsed in an Atlantis-like catastrophe—these crosses were intentionally submerged.
The story of the graveyard goes back more than 400 years, to 1570. The Canary Islands had been under Spanish control for over a century and were seen as a valuable trading colony. Unfortunately for the Spanish, this attracted a lot of pirates, who wanted to share in this newly acquired wealth.
As such, the waters around the Canary Islands and Madeira were not a safe place. This, however, did not deter Portuguese missionary Inácio de Azevedo and his 39 Jesuit companions from their travel to La Palma. But luck was not on their side, and they were boarded by a crew of French pirates led by Jacques de Sores, who wanted the ship and cargo for himself.
Though de Sores wanted the ship, he did not want the 40 men aboard it, so he decided to dispose of them in an exceptionally cruel way. He threw them into the sea and watched them slowly drown and sink to the bottom, all while they were just within reach of the island.
In 1742, Pope Benedict XIV declared the murdered men martyrs. In 2000, 40 crosses were dropped into the sea to create a memorial cemetery near where the incident is believed to have happened. These crosses are still there to this day. In 2014, the monks were honored once more by a large stone cross at a nearby lighthouse that bears their names.
Know Before You Go
The crosses are accessible to all via a diving company, or experienced divers with their own equipment.
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