The People of Gibraltar
1550s - La Iglesia de la Vera Cruz - Gibraltar

Once upon a time . . .  the site of la Iglesia de la Vera Cruz  . . .  or was it? (Early 20th century)

Inevitably the oldest reference to the existence and location of La Vera Cruz is that of Alonso Hernández del Portillo in his celebrated 1625 history of Gibraltar
La Cofradía de la Santa Vera Cruz tiene una buena y alegre Iglesia en la Calle Real. . . . Es cosa maravillosa ver la devoción que en esta Ciudad se tiene con Nuestra Señora la Virgen Madre de Dios, pues casi todos las Iglesias que en ella hay son de su advocación. . . . En la Santa Vera Cruz, Nuestra Señora de los Dolores.
But that was then. By 1704 - the year in which Anglo-Dutch forces captured Gibraltar (see LINK) - the church had become home to several other cofradias - or brotherhoods besides that of Nuestra Señora de Dolores. Luckily I happen to know who was running them at the time. Pedro Durán, for example, was the steward of the brotherhood of Saint James - San Diego - and Juan Moncayo looked after that of Saint Joseph.

Of course, the main cofradia - run by Diego Coria - was that of the True Cross from which the church took its name. The sixteenth century statue of Christ on the Cross which must have had pride of place inside the church somehow ended up in the church of Santa Maria la Coronada in San Roque probably  before the 1760s although I have no idea how it got there.

Santa Maria la Coronada en San Roque     (1900s - A.Moulton Foweraker)  (See LINK)

La Vera Cruz - San Roque

According to my quote from Portillo’s History, la Iglesia de la Vera Cruz was in Calle Real - or Main Street (see LINK) - which is of course is the longest street in Gibraltar. So the question is - where exactly was it. Apparently two alternative locations have been offered by different local historians over the years.

The first one - suggested by Tito Benady is that the church once stood at the corner of City Mill Lane and Main Street. It tended to be a popular choice of location for a while as anybody old enough to remember this was where the Emporium - a popular department store now long gone - once stood. 
The Emporium building

Unfortunately it seems that it is much more likely that la Iglesia de las Angustias (see LINK) is the church that once occupied the Emporium site. The second and more likely choice of location is the corner of Horse Barracks Lane right beside and to the north of Nuestra Señora de la Misericordia. (See LINK

The alternative sites for the Church of La Vera Cruz ( 1627 - Luis Bravo de Acuña)         (See LINK)

Wherever it was, it continued to be used as a church after 1704 although presumably neither as “Buena” or “alegre” as it had been previously. Certainly not in 1712 when the Governor at the time Thomas Stanwix took over the Convent of St Francis (see LINK) for his own use. He promptly converted their Catholic chapel into a Protestant church and threw out all the monk who were forced to moved into la Vera Cruz.

By the 1720s the friars had either all died or had decided that there wasn’t much in it for them in British Gibraltar. Those still able to packed their bags and left the church of the Vera Cruz for good. The place was then closed and converted into a warehouse by the Britiah authorities but at some time from 1726 to 1748 Colonel William Skinner R.E - who was at Chief Engineer at the time - converted it into a barracks. With the carelessness that typified many a contemporary Englishman as regards the pronunciation of Spanish names he called it the Vera Creuze. According to E. R. Kenyon (see LINK) writing in 1911, Horse Barrack Lane probably got its name from Skinner’s barrack. 

Iglesia de la Vera Cruz  ( 1970 - George Palao - adapted)

George Palao - another local historian who must have used up a considerable amount of his time researching Gibraltar’s old Spanish churches suggests that at one time or the other the building became a wine shop owned by a Mr. Weirs and that later sold by the Government to a Mr Breciano. During the later part of the 20th century it was the site of a well known watering hole - el Cafe Universal. 

The Cafe Universal on the corner of Horse Barrack Lane and Main Street

By the middle of the 18th century the building appears on a map produced by James Montressor - Chief Engineer at the time - as a soldier’s barracks. According to the plan:
. . . the Officers’ Barrack has its Front of entrance O with its number and the Soldiers S with their Number, which are cut in a Stone, and fixed in the Wall of each Barrack.
La Vera Cruz had now become S17 and it seems that the Main Street entrance to a five-room property just to the south of it and which may have once been part of the church, had been assigned as Officers quarters for a Captain and a Subaltern. Quite a large space for just two people but I am sure they would have preferred being quartered elsewhere as some of the rooms had been condemned.

The conversion of the church of la Vera Cruz into a Soldiers’ Barracks - and possibly home to a Captain and a Subaltern   (1753 - James Montressor )  (See LINK)