About San Roque
In 1704 a combined Anglo-Dutch force took Gibraltar. Most of the Spanish occupants of the Rock decided to leave their homes and settle in the surrounding villages and towns, Algeciras, Los Barrios, La Linea and, the majority, in San Roque. Since 1704 the town has been known as ‘Gibraltar in the Fields of San Roque’.
San Roque overlooks Gibraltar and its residents never gave up hope of returning to their homes. In 1706, King Phillip V of Spain made San Roque the official ‘City of Gibraltar in Exile’. The coat of arms consists of a castle, representing Gibraltar, and a key.
Just 10 kilometres southwest of Sotogrande, this historic town is worth a visit. The whitewashed old quarter of town was declared a Collection of Listed Historical Buildings in 1975. Old San Roque is full of notable monuments and museums, as well as typical picturesque Andalucian streets and squares. In the years following 1704 the Spanish Gibraltarians managed to smuggle their town records and religious icons out of Gibraltar. There is a famous tale of the statue of the Virgin being brought through the lines on the back of a donkey. The icons now reside in the church at San Roque and the records in the town archives.
Sights to see
Sights to see include, the Governor’s Palace, an early 18th century, neoclassical structure, the museum in which are artefacts from the nearby Roman site of Carteia,
the old Military Command HQ that contains two museums and the Standard of Gibraltar and Saint Mary the Crowned Parish Church built in 1735 in a Tuscan and Baroque style. The church was built on the site of the original shrine of Saint Roque that dated to 1508.
Built in 1853 the bullring, now a bullfighting museum, is the oldest in the province of Cádiz and one of the oldest in Andalucia. Just outside the town is the archaeological site of Carteia. On the banks of the Guadarranque river the site dates to 700 BC and was an important Carthaginian and Roman settlement.
The history of San Roque is intimately entwined with that of Gibraltar. In Simon Susarte Park you will find a statue of a goatherd of the same name. It is said that Simon Susarte knew of a concealed path up the precipitous eastern side of the rock and led 500 Spanish troops to Europa Advance and killed the guard. They moved to the Upper Rock and spent the night in St Michael’s Cave. The next morning they attacked the Signal Station but the alarm was raised and the English counter-attacked. 160 prisoners were taken including a colonel and thirty other officers; the rest were killed trying to escape. Whilst this assault occurred, there is some doubt that any goatherd was involved. Still, it makes a good story.
The Borough Tourist Office offers free guided sightseeing tours (weekdays, mornings afternoons and weekends). The tours can be arranged for groups of 8 or more persons in English, Spanish and Italian. The only necessary requirement is to book one week in advance.