The Parish Church of San Jorge Mártir was declared a National Monument in 1931.
In the square of this church, in May 1492, the Cabildo and the residents gathered “to the sound of the bell,” where the Royal Pragmatic was read, ordering the people of Palos to provide two caravels to Christopher Columbus and requesting the recruitment of Palos sailors.
The church is dedicated to San Jorge Mártir, probably due to English influence, given the commercial relationships that the sailors of the town had with the most important European ports of the time, including England. The English Royal House spread the devotion to this saint through crusades or their sailors.
The temple was built on an acropolis on the eastern flank of the castle. It is a Gothic-Mudejar-style work whose main core was probably built by the Counts of Miranda in the mid-15th century, but most likely on an older building from the 14th century. This core consists of a body with three Mudejar-style naves with pointed arches, differentiated from its Gothic-style head. The Gothic part highlights the beauty of its ribbed vault. The church does not seem to be the result of a planned project; rather, it is perhaps an evolutionary outcome of chance. While it preserves the body of an old temple, its head seems to be the beginning of what would have been a rich late Gothic temple, replacing the previous Mudejar style, if the works had not been halted in the early 16th century after the discovery of America. This was mainly due to the local population emigrating, especially to the Americas, leaving the local population greatly reduced, leading to a decline in the economy and labor force. The church was left unfinished with the current mixture of Gothic-Mudejar styles.
The church has two large doorways. The main door, also called the Door of America, is entirely made of stone and is framed by two buttresses. Although it has a certain Romanesque air, it is a Gothic work from the early 15th century.
The northern door, known as the “Door of the Betrothed,” is a Mudejar masterpiece, also from the 15th century but of a later date than the main one. It is an Almohad work of two-colored brick, red and yellow, with beautiful geometric ornamentation. It is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful areas of the parish. It is called “of the betrothed” because it was a tradition in our parish for couples who were still engaged to enter through it, and after getting married, they would exit through the main door. Christopher Columbus, the Pinzón brothers, and the sailors went out through this door after praying and receiving the sacraments before embarking on the morning of August 3, 1492, on the voyage of discovery.
The church consists of three Mudejar naves and a Gothic head. In the central nave, we can admire the Neo-Mudejar ceiling created by a local carpenter in the late 19th century. In the side naves, there are three chapels.
Entering through the Door of the Betrothed, in the Gospel nave, a painting of Christ embracing the cross hangs on the wall, a sign of acceptance of divine will, dating back to around 1620.
Next, an Andalusian funerary qubba is attached, also Mudejar. It has a rectangular plan and an octagonal vault on pendentives. The inscription on the impost reads: “IN THE NAME OF THE HOLY [Trinity] THIS CHAPEL […] FOR THEIR BURIALS [AND] THOSE THAT PROCEEDED FROM THEM IN THE YEAR ONE THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED […]”. In the center of the pavement, there is a white marble sepulcher slab that reads: “HERE LIES BURIED CHRISTOVAL JURADO PRIETO, COMMISSIONER OF THE HOLY OFFICE. YEAR 1605.” It is known that this licentiate was the one who founded a chaplaincy in the parish of Palos in 1590 by order of his brother, Juan Jurado, residing in the Indies.
Currently, it is dedicated to the patron Saint Jorge Mártir, and the current image of our patron saint, created by José Luis Rosado in 2001, is found in it. In the niche on the right side wall, there is a representation of Santa Ana Maestra. This valuable unpolychromed alabaster relief, 84 cm tall, is an anonymous work from the 15th century Pyrenean-Franco-Catalan circle. Below this medieval relief, there is a sculptural group in baked and polychromed clay, representing Joseph and Mary worshiping the infant Jesus. The mystery, lacking the original infant figure, is cataloged as a work from the circle of Cristóbal Ramos around 1800. It was donated to this parish in 1958 by Fray Serafín Ruiz Castroviejo, guardian of the monastery of Santa María de la Rábida. It comes from the private collection of Ignacio de Cepeda, Viscount of La Palma del Condado, who gave it to the then guardian of the aforementioned Franciscan monastery, Fray Genaro Prieto, a few years earlier.
Next is the chapel of San Cereal and San Getulio, which opens directly into the transept. Its square plan is covered with a semi-spherical vault on pendentives. The two front pendentives bear small stone sculptures of musical angels in their lower corners. The vault is enriched with proto-Baroque stucco work that enhances the acoustics and displays a geometric plate decoration. Under the pavement, there is a crypt accessed through a well-paved opening that, until 1973, was sealed by the aforementioned marble slab of Cristóbal Jurado Prieto, dated 1605. Inside, there is an altarpiece of azulejos with two colorful tile panels from the 17th century depicting the martyr companions San Cereal and San Getulio. Both characters, standing, wear a long tunic and a wide mantle, carrying open books. They hold knives in their bleeding throats, attributes of their beheading, and are precisely identified because their respective halos bear the name of each. In this chapel, the Virgin of Miracles, patroness of Palos de la Frontera, received worship during her repeated and forced absences from the monastery of La Rábida. Here, in front of the Marian effigy, an anonymous work from the Franco-Catalan Pyrenean nucleus of the second third of the 14th century, the aviators of the “Plus Ultra” heard Mass on the morning of January 22, 1926, before undertaking the historic and memorable flight from Palos to Buenos Aires across the ocean.
From around 1770 is the Mexican painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe, which presides over the Gospel side nave. Mary, with her well-known Immaculate Conception attire, is surrounded by a colorful border with several cartouches of rocaille.
In the Main Altar, we see, on one side, frescoes from the time of the Catholic Monarchs: San Jorge in the central upper part and on one side Santiago the Apostle in the Battle of Clavijo. Of the same style and period is the one found on the wall of the Epistle nave, dedicated to the Coronation of the Virgin by angels. In the lateral niche of this Main Altar is an image of Santa Ana with the Virgin child in her arms, created by Hernando de Uceda in 1561. And finally, one of the treasures of the parish, the Christ of the Blood, which presides over this Main Altar, is considered to be from the circle of Roque Balduque, carved in the mid-16th century. It is a crucified figure, deceased, with great realism and strong dramatic expression. The Crucified One is one of the references in polychrome wood sculpture in the province of Huelva.
In the Epistle nave is the last of the lateral chapels. This is the chapel of the Tabernacle. Apart from the tabernacle of the Blessed Sacrament, there are two images that process in our Holy Week: Our Father Jesus Nazarene, an anonymous work from approximately the 18th century, donated to the parish in 1926 by the then parish priest, José Díaz Gutiérrez. The other image is Our Lady of Sorrows, a work by the Sevillian artist José Rivera García from 1939.
On the wall of the baptistery, two paintings from the 18th century are exhibited. The first represents Saint Francis of Paula ecstatic before the vision of two cherubs carrying an oval mirror. It is an oil on canvas from the late 1700s. The venerable character, kneeling, leans on a staff. The paradisiacal background reveals a rocky cliff and the sea in the distance. The other painting can be dated around 1720. It depicts Saint Francis of Assisi in a praying attitude before a crucifix. He wears the brown habit of his order. The naturalistic landscape of the scene accentuates its devotional character. Apparently, both canvases were donated in 1922 by Mr. José Esquina.
At the back of the central nave, above the arch that leads to the choir, high up, three other paintings are exhibited, which may complete the donation made by the aforementioned Mr. José Esquina. The first depicts Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus. It is an oil on canvas from the second half of the 18th century. He appears dressed in a black cassock, sash, and cloak and wearing a bonnet. He carries an open book, alluding to the Spiritual Exercises he wrote, where you can read: “AD MAIOREM DEI GLORIAM.” The emblem of the Order appears in the upper right corner. The second, also from the 18th century, depicts the encounter of Christ with the holy woman Veronica on the Street of Bitterness. The third, also from the 18th century, reproduces Saint Jerome as a penitent, kneeling and half-naked, inside a cave.
In the choir, two paintings are preserved. The Baptism of Christ, an oil on canvas from the 18th century, is inspired by Murillo’s painting on the same theme enriching the altarpiece of the baptismal chapel of the cathedral of Seville. The other paper painting is from the 19th century. It shows the Virgin of Miracles dressed in Baroque style. It is surrounded by American flags, and at her feet are the three caravels. It comes from the Rábida monastery.