La Orotava's mysterious masonic gardens of Tenerife in the Canary Islands
La Orotava has a certain ring to it. It is an evocative place name and perhaps this is very fitting because of the history of the town.
Not only that, but because of its unique old buildings and ornate Canary Islands architecture that tell a tale in themselves, it is a place that asks many questions of its visitors. La Orotava is a Tenerife town in the north of the island that speaks to us. But what are its secrets?
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In Tenerife's La Orotava is a beautiful masonic garden
In the town of La Orotava in the north of Tenerife in the Canary Islands there is a mysterious and very beautiful masonic garden containing the Mausoleum of the Marqués (Marquis) de la Quinta Roja, Diego de Ponte y Castillo. With the mountains and forests above and the coastline below the gardens offer commanding views over the La Orotava valley and the town itself. This town and garden should be on any list of what to see in Tenerife. La Orotava by bus is an easy way to get there with regular services from Puerto de la Cruz on the coast below.
Hanging Gardens of Babylon
The gardens offer seven different levels and made me think of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. As you walk up the pathways through the well-kept lawns and floral displays, winding your way upwards past rose beds and fountains, the focus of the entire place is the magnificent mausoleum that towers above everything and is made from gleaming white Lyon marble. It was built by the French architect Adolph Coquet in 1882.
Details carved into the marble show vines and what appears to be either a pinecone or a pineapple. The pinecone can be thought to be a symbol of the pineal gland thought to be the bodily location of spiritual enlightenment. Perhaps the use of this symbol was to show that the Marquis had reached such knowledge? The pinecone is also said to be a symbol of rebirth and here may be symbolising the next life of the Marquis?
There is a strong Freemasonic presence on the island of Tenerife and the Marqués de la Quinta Roja was a member of the Taoro Masonic Lodge. After he died at a comparitively early age, it is said that his mother had the mausoleum built but that his widow did not approve of having his remains housed there and it was not used for its original purpose. However, you still cannot help but wonder what is housed behind a mysterious padlocked wooden door that is in the front of the edifice.
Alpha and Omega
Behind the elaborately carved metalwork in the section above this and which bears an Omega symbol signifying "the end" - as used in the Bible where Jesus is described as "the Apha and the Omega" - it is possible to see what is in an inner sanctum, and it is a carving of a beehive, a very important hieroglyphic symbol or emblem in Freemasonry.
The Early Masonic Catechisms printed in 1724 tells us:
"A bee has in all Ages and Nations been the Grand Hierogliphick of Masonry, because it excells all other living Creatures in the Contrivance and Commodiousness of its Habitation or combe; … nay Masonry or Building seems to be of the very Essence or Nature of the Bee, for her Building not the ordinary Way of all other living Creatures, is the Generative Cause which produces the Young ones. (you know I suppose that Bees are of Neither Sex.)
For this Reason the Kings of France both Pagans and Christians, always Eminent Free-Masons, carried three Bees for their Arms."
And it is also said that the original name for a Freemasonic lodge was a hive. The hive is a model of a community all working together to a common purpose and under the dominion of the Queen Bee.
At a lower level of the gardens is an elaborately carved ornate metal gate that stands between two pillars. It leads nowhere though. Behind it is a wall and a carved stone bench or seat. It is like an exhibit, but what does it say? What does it symbolise? Is it saying that stepping between one world and another reveals little in the way of difference on both sides of the doorway? Is it suggesting that the Marquis, had a wonderful garden in this life and would have another in his next one?
Walking around these gardens, and in La Orotava in general, the mind is sure to wander and to ask questions. La Orotava has many old historic buildings and examples of Colonial-style Canarian architecture and dragons are often incorporated in designs. The coat-of-arms of La Orotava shows a Dragon Tree and four golden apples said to represent those of the mythical Garden of the Hesperides. A dragon stands guard on each side and above it all is the crown of Castille.
Puerto de la Cruz
Dragons are often found in the architecture and coats-of-arms in Tenerife and the La Orotava's neighbour Puerto de la Cruz, on the coast below, has this reptile in its coat-of-arms.
La Orotava, with its many surviving historic buildings and its steep cobble-stoned streets, lanes and ornate architecture is in many ways like stepping back into the past.
Where is La Orotava?
© 2009 Steve Andrews
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