El Burgo – San Sebastian Chapel
San Sebastian Chapel – El Burgo
Chapels are usually humble constructions dedicated to a Saint and built on the outskirts of Arab cities-fortresses in areas that were re-conquered by the Christians. They were used as a place of worship by Moorish converts and by travellers, as Christians usually prayed in Churches.
The Moriscos, Arab converts, and, therefore, Moors who were not expelled from Spain, were indoctrinated in the Chapels in case they were not “sincere converts”.
When conquered by the Catholic Monarchs, El Burgo was re-settled by “old Christians” to ensure the introduction of Christianity among a mainly Moorish population. In order to be considered an “old Christian”, one had to be free of Jewish or Moorish blood as far back as one´s grandparents on both the father and mother´s side. Being considered an “old Christian” included a number of privileges and therefore, under significant conditions, such as being appointed a Knight of the Order of Santiago or Calatrava, or simply if one wanted to become a Priest, so-called “clean blood certificates” were required, which were a verification, by means of many witnesses, of the “cleanliness of all lineage from Moorish or Jewish connections”
San Sebastián Chapel was built on a hill next to the cemetery towards the end of the XV century, shortly after the area was occupied by the Catholic Monarchs. It includes a simple temple that has been reformed but that preserves its Gothic stone façade. It received this name in honour of the devotion the Catholic Queen (Isabella) felt for the said Saint.
In the XIX century, it was a meeting place where neighbours would meet to deal with serious issues. The bells were rung to summon the neighbours. Today, almost in ruins, it brings to memory the efforts made by former and present inhabitants to remain in this marvellous land.