Cathedrals & Cloisters, Antigua Guatemala
Favorite thing: The cathedral located at the east side of the Parque central dates from 1680 after the first one was demolished a few years before. It's certainly not the most beautifull church in town, but it's worth to take a look inside.
Occupied by 28 nuns, the convent had many rooms, large courtyard, garden, orchards, and fountains.
It had the only circular cloister known to exist in America and Europe, sometimes called Novices Tower of Tower of Retreat.
The Dominican Order in Central America can be traced back to 1538 in Ciudad Vieja where the Dominican missionaries lived in a humble convent. One of its founders, Fray Bartolome de Las Casas, is known in Guatemala’s history as the 'protector of the Indians'. When the capital was moved to Antigua and land was assigned to the Catholic orders, Santo Domingo received the most and became in time one the largest and wealthiest monasteries in the city. Santo Domingo was totally destroyed in 1773 so almost everything we known about it come from what historians wrote at the time. Its rubble was uses as build material throughout the XIX century.
The church had two towers with ten bells. The first public clock of the city was installed in one if them. Both church and monastery were filled with artistic treasures and its huge octagonal fountain was famous. It even had an artificial lake for fishing and boating. Is association with the Dominicans, but mainly through the efforts of Bishop Marroquin, a school was founded in Santo Domingo, called Colegio Santo Tomas de Aquino, predecessor of the University of San Carlos. Many important personalities attended this school. In 1676, when the foundation of the University was finally authorized by royal decree, Santo Domingo was elected as its seat, where it remained until 1763 when it moved to its new building.
In colonial days, the neighborhood around Santo Domingo was very lively, noisy and busy with commerce. Today a beautiful hotel has been skillfully incorporated into the ruins of the monastery, bringing back some of the past charm to this old section of Antigua.... and it is absolutely gorgeous!!!!! What little remains of the ruins of Santo Domingo is presently being uncovered. This is a picture right at the entrance.
This is the Church and Monastery of San Francisco. The order of the Franciscans in Guatemala dates back to 1525. In 1540 they had a simple monastery with five monks in Cuidad Vieja. In the new capital the monastery grew in number to eighty monks. By the end of the 1600’s, grounds owned by the Franciscans were very extensive. Apart from the usual areas of the main monastery, there was also a hospital and clinic, and above all, its facilities for scholars.
The library was one of the most complete of its time; it had a productive publishing house, the second one to be established in the city; and the order founded the San Buenaventura School for theological and philosophical studies.
Destroyed in 1773, most of the ruins of this huge monastery still remain, and even some part covered with modeled stucco and traces of painted murals have been conserved. Its fountain is found today in the courtyard of La Merced in Antigua. Apart from a chapel restored in the early 1800’s to shelter the remains of Pedro de Betancur, the church of San Francisco was not really restored, but rather reconstructed. This aroused much controversy and vigorous criticism from historians and architects who want to see colonial monuments conserved in their original form.
The church was built by Diego de Porres and inaugurated in 1702. Its facade, with twisted salomonic columns, is typical of the Spanish-American baroque; it has sixteen vaulted niches, each one containing a saint or a friar. The altarpieces inside the church were richly decorated with painting and sculptures of famous contemporary artist. Two of these are still found in San Francisco; the others have come from elsewhere. San Francisco is one of the most visited churches if the county became it enshrine the remains of Hermano Pedro de Betancur, Guatemala’s cherished saint who was beatified in 1980. Thousand of pilgrims come every year begging for favors and miracles.
Favorite thing: The second church and convent were built from 1723 to 1734. The convent, a large cloister surrounded by a two-storied arcade, had cells for 46 nuns, a hospital with room for convalescing patients, a place for the novices, a sacristy, a dining room, kitchen, and even a ward for insane nuns. The earthquake of 1773 left Santa Clara practically in ruins for the second time, nevertheless the south side of the church, with intricate decoration in molded plaster, is one of the most interesting and well preserved in Antigua Guatemala.
Favorite thing: This is the Church and Convent of Santa Clara. The history of Santa Clara and the order of the Claristas nuns date back to 1695. The license for its establishment was obtained trough mediation of the Franciscan monk in the city. Founded by six nuns who came from Puebla, Mexico, the funds necessary for the establishment and maintenance of the nuns were provided through donation of local people, One of these was a widow who also gave her home, which served as a temporary residence for the nuns. Only bibliographic references remain of the original church and convent, since they were both destroyed in the earthquake of 1717.
Favorite thing: Consecrated in 1736, Capuchinas was the last convent founded in Santiago, for the first time in the history of the city, no dowry was required, a practice, which had prevented under privileged girls from entering the religious orders. Capuchinas is a magnificent example of an eighteenth century convent.
The layout of this cathedral was typical of the Spanish cathedral of the period, grand in its architecture and decorated with great artistic treasures by contemporary sculptors, painters, and silversmiths. Elevated to the rank of 'metropolitan' in 1743, its was probably the largest and most luxurious in Central America.
Among the ruins, we may still appreciate the elaborate decorations sculptured on the dome, columns and pillars, cornices and vaults. For almost 100 years, it’s survived three major earthquakes, but the earthquakes of 1773 destroyed it completely. Two of the chapels at the entrance remained almost intact; they were restored at the beginning of the XIX century and today are called the parish church of San Jose. This is a picture of the backside of the Cathedral.
This cloister, surrounded by 18 cells, lies over a barrel vault supported by a massive central column about 3 meters in diameter. A remarkable characteristic of this part of the convent was a complex plumbing system that supplied running water to each cell.
Scholars have not agreed as to the function of these cells, especially since the nuns already had their rooms on the second floor of the convent, but their presence has led to different theories as well as to popular and imaginative tales.
Favorite thing: One day we were walking by this church and noticed the all the wheelchairs. A local told us that the church supported a hospital next door which tended to people with special needs.