The town of Santa María de Betancuria was founded by the Norman conquerors towards the year 1404, during the conquest of the island of Fuerteventura, which was developed in the early years of the 15th century. Betancuria, together with Rubicon in Lanzarote, were the first cities founded by Europeans in the Canary Islands and Betancuria took its name from the own conqueror, Jean de Bethencourt.

Its location in a Valley inland, away from the coast and surrounded by mountains is due to military and strategic reasons, is, on the one hand to their fertility, presence of water and plant wealth, in the island context; and, secondly, that this location offered some security and allowed a better defense against possible pirate attacks. However, this situation could not prevent that when Berber Arraez Xaban hordes invaded the island in the year 1593 come up to Betancuria, where burned, destroyed and burgled the main buildings, including the Church of Santa Maria.

The first buildings that were erected in Betancuria during the process of conquest were a defensive Tower called Valtarajal and a chapel, in which the Conqueror Jean de Bethencourt placed in the year 1405 an image of the Virgin which had brought from France, although nowadays these constructions are not retained.

After the conquest, Betancuria became a guiding Centre of the island and in its territory began to settle a new society, formed by European settlers and part of the Aboriginal population that survived the process of conquest, introducing an economy based on agricultural activities, collection of urchilla lichen and trade. Also settled in Betancuria territorial Lords of the island, whose Palace was located at the rear of the Church; leading authorities, civil, religious and military; and all the institutions and organs of Government island. Thus Betancuria became “villa de Señorío”, capital of the island with jurisdiction over the whole island territory.

Church of Santa Maria

Church of Santa Maria

Major institutions and government institutions were the territorial Lord who exercised jurisdiction, named all the public offices, received tributes and granted “favour” of Earth; and the chapter, which dealt with order the insular life and was composed of one Mayor, the councilors and the notary.

In the religious order rose to the year 1410 Church of Santa María, built in the only parish on the island until the 18th century. In 1416 the monks Franciscan, coming from Castile, opened a convent under the advocation of St. Bonaventure, which was named Patron Saint of the island. In 1424, a bull of Pope Martin V created diocese of Fuerteventura, whose jurisdiction included all the Canary Islands, except Lanzarote which had the bishopric of the Rubicon. The bishopric was suppressed in 1430 and its only holder was Fray Martín de las Casas.

Around these religious centres, and as the population had increased and expanded towards the valleys and Plains of the island, were emerging hermitages throughout the 16th to the 17TH, both in own villa de Betancuria and in other villages. The territory that now belongs to the municipality of Betancuria rose the hermitages of Santa Catalina, San Salvador, Santas Justa and Rufina, San Diego, San Sebastian, Santa Inés, our Lady of The Rock and the Church of the convent of San Buenaventura.

All these temples relied on the single parish of Betancuria until the 18th century, when new parishes were created and rose several chapels in different villages of the island.