The chapel of Sa Tanca Vella was the first chapel to come into operation in Formentera, almost 700 years ago.
Old Chapel of Sa Tanca Vella
In Formentera we find a chapel called “Capella de Sa Tanca Vella”. It is the oldest religious building on the island.
It was built so that the inhabitants of Formentera would not have to travel to the nearest church, which was located in “Eivissa” (Ibiza) to worship. It was built in the 14th century, more specifically in 1336, and is extremely simple: it only has a floor plan of 2 x 3 meters and a barrel vault.
History of the Sa Tanca Vella Chapel
On July 17, 1369, the archbishop of Tarragona Pere Clasquerí, in response to a request made by parishioners of Ibiza, authorized the construction of a chapel in Formentera dedicated to San Valero. It was to be built near the cave of the same name, in the place considered most suitable. Formentera had been officially depopulated as a result of the Black Death (1348) and in the second half of the 19th century. XIV its repopulation was considered difficult and very uncertain and the chapel was to act as an attraction for the first inhabitants to come back to the island.
The chapel was finally built, but the small dimensions of the building (barely 2 x 3 meters by 2 meters high) and the lack of a cemetery next to it show the difficulties that existed at that time for the repopulation of Formentera. The chapel was designed to provide spiritual assistance to a very scarce or practically non-existent and intermittent population that only moved to the island for certain economic activities but did not live on Formentera.
At the end of the s. XVII, Marc Ferrer and Antoni Blanc (feudal lords of Ibiza) received lands in Formentera and thus began the definitive repopulation of the island. Thus the chapel of sa Tanca Vella soon became one of the meeting and worship points for the population, and this was the origin of what is now Sant Francesc.
A few centuries later, the old medieval chapel became a vicarage (in 1718) and a cemetery was built next to it. the continuous arrival of settlers from Ibiza and the gradual growth of the population of Formentera eventually exceeded the possibilities of the small oratory.Between 1726 and 1738 the church of San Francisco Javier was built.
The chapel was closed in 1737, but its cemetery continued to be used until a moat was built behind the new church. On May 19, 1757, the bones from the cemetery of the chapel of sa Tanca Vella and those of des Carnatge were moved to the moat of the church of Sant Francesc. In 1993 the Chapel of Sa Tanca Vella was declared an Asset of Cultural Interest with the category of monument.
How to get to the Old Chapel of Sa Tanca Vella?
This chapel is located in the center of Sant Francesc de Formentera, in the street Diputat Marià Serra. It is relatively close to the current active church of Sant Francesc Xavier or church of San Francisco Javier. You can see its location and how to get there in this information sheet.
How to visit the Old Chapel of Sa Tanca Vella?
The Chapel is currently unused and closed. However, you can visit the exteriors from Tuesday to Saturday from 10h to 14h. At any other time of the day you can only visit it from behind the fence that protects it.
If you go over to take a look you will see that the chapel itself is very small. What is striking about this structure is how old it is and how many years it has been in operation despite its small size.
Inside the building you will see a small religious statuette and some decoration, but there is not much because the space does not give for more; in fact the most surprising thing about this chapel is how simple it is.
It is interesting to know that it remained the only building of worship on the island until the opening of the church of San Francesc Xavier in 1738, that is, it was in operation for approximately 402 years.
Other monuments of Formentera
If you want to visit other ancient monuments of Formentera, you can see the following: