The church of San Sebastian


St. Sebastian, the Patron of Huelva

St. Sebastian has been the patron saint of Huelva since 1783, so this temple was built for his cult and worship. In 1956, Bishop Pedro Cantero Cuadrado expressed his wish to build new churches in the city. Among them, there was this temple consecrated to St. Sebastian, which was inaugurated the 20 January 1959. 

The saint’s worship is related to Roman tradition. During the Plague of Rome in 680 AD, the people implored St. Sebastian for protection. Since then, the Church has considered him the special protector against the plague and a great defender of the church in general. An equally worshipped saint in critical moments by the population is St. Roch. Both of them became the protectors of Huelva in the sixteenth century. 

In the sixteenth century, several plague epidemics broke out in southern Andalusia. Huelva was not an exception, so two hermitages were built up at both city entrances. St. Roch’s Hermitage was built where the Church of La Merced is today – at the north entrance, on the way to the village of Gibraleón –, whereas St. Sebastian’s Hermitage was built at the end of the street of the same name – at the east entrance, on the way to Seville. 

In those days, it was very usual to build hermitages at the entrance of villages and cities so that saints protected inhabitants from epidemics coming from outside. We cannot forget that these catastrophes were considered a divine punishment. God’s wrath could be calmed down by building temples and celebrating processions.

A festival for both patron saints had been celebrated the 16 August (St. Roch’s Day) for centuries. Statues of both saints were taken out and several activities took place throughout the day, such as bullfights inside a provisional bullring made up with boats. This bullring was located at the today disappeared arch-hermitage of La Estrella – built at the end of La Calzada (today Marina Street) – which protected the city entrance from the sea. 

 The excellent situation of St. Roch’s Hermitage made it very covetable for several religious orders which wanted to settle in the city. In the end, it was the Mercedarians who settled there under the protection of the Count and Countess of Niebla. In 1616, the convent was already finished, so St. Roch’s statue was moved to the new church. With the passing of time, this church would be successively restored until its present appearance as the Cathedral of La Merced. Also, the festivals in honour of both patron saints were celebrated separately, especially when St. Sebastian started being more worshipped than St. Rock – maybe due to the latter’s inclusion in the new convent. In 1738, the city council decided to declare St. Sebastian as the official patron saint of Huelva. From then on, St. Roch’s worship started disappearing little by little from the city.

The History of the Building

The first stone of the temple was put on Sunday 9 March 1958, thanks to the boost of the newly-created Diocese of Huelva and Pedro Cantero Cuadrado, first Bishop of Huelva. The parish church was finished for the patron saint’s day of 1959. The press of the moment declared that “just by the Church, one can find the Rectory together with a great Vocational Training Centre for the Working-Class Youth, with several branches – Electrical Engineering, Radio-Broadcasting, Cinema, and Graphic Arts in the sector of Rotogravure”.

The church is a one-nave temple with decorations depicting St. Sebastian’s martyrdom. It has a chapel with a relic of the patron saint of Huelva donated by local artist José María Franco after recent restoration works.