The People of Gibraltar
1530 - Cabeza, Santiago and Brígida - Gibraltar

My attempts to find the locations of these three churches is - to misquote Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy - another fine mess I have got myself into. The oldest reference I can find for la Ermita de la Señora de la Cabeza, la Iglesia de Santiago and la ermita de Santa Brígida is - surprise, surprise - from our very own Alonso Hernández del Portillo in his 1627 Historia de Gibraltar. (See LINK)

Hay una antiquísima (iglesia), y está en la Villa Vieja, que como diré, este barrio y el Castillo solo tenían poblado los Moros, con nombre ahora de Nuestra Señora de la Cabeza. A los muy antiguos de esta Ciudad siempre les oí llamar Santiago, después Santa Brígida, y últimamente Nuestra Señora de la Cabeza; y fue la Iglesia Parroquial antigua. . . . 
In other words Portillo gives us no less than three names for the one parochial church in Villa Vieja. Somewhat perversely E. R. Kenyon in his book Gibraltar (see LINK) which was published in 1911 included the following in an enlarged 1933 edition:
. . . . from (Thomas James) (see LINK) we learn that the esplanade was on the site of Casemates Barracks and that it was cleared of rubble in 1731. On this site once stood the parish church of the quarter of Villa Vieja . . 
It seems to me that Kenyon’s logic was a wee bit suspect. For a start I would have expected to find the parish church of any particular place inside this particular quarter of the town - in other words Villa Vieja and not in the Casemates area - then known as la Barcina - and which lay below and to the west of it. 

George Palao, a local historian who produced in the 1970 perhaps the best overall summary available of Gibraltar’s long gone Spanish churches gives us a different perspective. 
Nuestra Señora de la Cabeza - This 16th century military parade church stood within the Moorish Castle complex. (See LINK)  It was used as a magazine during the Great Siege (1779 - 1783) (See LINK)

Ermita de Nuestra Señora de la Cabeza  ( 1970 - Adapted from George Palao)

I am not sure what Palao meant by a “military parade church” but he certainly differs from both Portillo and Kenyon in that he thinks that Nuestra Señora de la Cabeza was not in Villa Vieja - as suggested by Portillo - nor the Casemates - as suggested by Kenyon - but within the Qasbah or Moorish Castle complex. In this he is in agreement with yet another local historian - Tito Vallejo who for all I know may have taken it from him.

Possible sites for the Ermita de Nuestra Señora de la Cabeza  (1627 - Adapted from Luis Bravo de Acuña - detail) (See LINK)

On the above plan:
A = The church chosen by both Palao and Vallejo as being the Ermita de Nuestra Señora de la Cabeza. 
B = Might be the parish church of Villa Vieja as suggested by Portillo
C = Would agree with Kenyon. Vallejo actually identifies this one as being completely different church - La ermita de San Sebastian - which he probably took from Portillo’s very clear description: 
En la Barcina estaba la ermita de San Sebastián muy antigua, parece fábrica de cristianos, aunque no la sacristía.
As regards la Iglesia de Santiago, Palao’s comments are also quite interesting. He writes:
The Church of St Jago’s (Iglesia de Santiago): Only the doorway of this 16th century church has been preserved when it was built into St Jago’s Barracks near Southport Gates. The barracks were constructed in 1883 but the actual church was once used as an ordnance workshop.

This is the oldest photograph I can find of the archway - (Probably late 19th century (Unkown)

Iglesia de Santiago - showing the surviving archway   (1970 - Adapted from George Palao)
Other researchers place the site of St Jago’s Church in the Grand Casemates Square and say that when it was demolished its west doorway was re-erected into the present barracks facia.
Those “other researchers” must have been Kenyon and later perhaps Dorothy Ellicott, (see LINK) the instigator of Gibraltar’s once upon a time tourist red plaques one of which was attached to the archway in question. The wording suggested that it came from a church in a different location. Palao also goes one step further and identifies it as that of the demolished Iglesia de Santiago.

Red information plaque attached to the archway at St Jago’s Barracks

Palao’s opening sentence reveals that he believed that the archway belonged to la Iglesia de Santiago and had not been moved from anywhere. In this he would later be proved wrong. (See LINK

Another important local historian - Tito Benady - commented on both these churches in his book - The Streets of Gibraltar published in 1996. His first salvo was that although he agreed with Portillo - and by inference Palao - that Nuestra Señora de la Cabeza was the parish church of the district of Villa Vieja, one should nevertheless:
Ignore the red plaque placed by the Gibraltar Museum which states that the archway (at St Jago’s) was brought from the old church in Villa Vieja as this is a mistake based on a misunderstanding. 
He then controversially goes on to suggest that it was not just a question of any recent misinterpretation by modern local historians - Dorothy Ellicott is the first culprit that comes to mind -  but that it was our very own medieval historian Portillo himself who was mistaken:
The old church of Santiago which stood close by Prince Edward's Gate is not mentioned by Portillo so it must have fallen into ruins by his time. (Portillo writes that this was the original name of NS de la Cabeza in Villa Vieja, but this was an error)
This is quite a statement. Portillo’s Historia has for long been a much quoted source of information for just about ever thing to do with the social and religious life of Gibraltar in the early 17th century. To say he was wrong is to chuck a hungry tom cat among the proverbial chickens. 

Prince Edward’s Gate which still traverses Charles V Wall just below Flat Bastion was built in 1790. There were precious few if any streets leading to it during the 17th century and certainly not until the British finally built the large Town Range Barracks in 1740.

(1831 - W.H. Smyth)

Benady gave no reference to back up his criticism but after some hefty digging I think have been able to figure out the reason why.

In 1983 a series of notarized documents held in San Roque were transcribed and published under the title of Un Protocolo Notarial de Gibraltar.  In one of the official records dated 1644 the name of the Church of Santiago appears twice: 
. . . .y los ympuso sobre unas casas que tenía en ella que lindaban con las de Baltazar Sanchez Trujillo y con la sierra y con la calle que subía a la iglesia beixa (old) de Santiago. . . y duenno y señor que soy de la dicha casa que linda  . . . por la de abajo por la dicha callejuela que va a la dicha iglesia beixa de Santiago y por las espaldas por la sierra y por delante con la calle alta que va derecha del sigarral a la muralla real (Charles V wall - See LINK)
The “sigarral” may have been a reference to the gardens of the Governor’s residence in what is today’s Governor’s Parade. The “muralla real” is Charles V Wall and the connecting calle alta is probably what would later be called Town Range.

The Baluarte de Santiago - which would have been built later just to the south of the Iglesia de Santiago - may have taken its name from it - in much the same way as the other Baluarte del Rosario to the west of Santiago is known to have taken its name from Nuestra Señora del Rosario. In other words Portillo must have made a mistake and Benady was probably correct - especially if we accept that by Iglesia Beixa de Santiago the protocol was referring to a church that was not just old but an unrecognisable ruin.

Plan showing the area from the sea to Flat Bastion - Balarte de Santiago   (1627 - Adapted from Luis Bravo de Acuña - detail )

I can’t make out any building on Bravo’s plan that might be interpreted as being la Iglesia de Santiago - other than the church which I suspect has now been definitively identified as being Nuestra Señora del Rosario. Of course this might simply confirm Tito Benady’s contention that the building was a complete ruin by the early 17th century - which is when Portillo’s wrote his history and Bravo created his celebrated plans.