Colonial Architecture, Antigua Guatemala
This is perhaps the defining symbol of Antigua. It is a remnant of the once-enormous Convent of St. Catherine. This convent was founded in 1613 with only four nuns, but by 1693 its numbers had swelled and its buildings lay on both sides of 5a Avenida Norte forced it to expand across the street. The arch was built to allow the sisters to pass from one side to the other without leaving their seclusion or being seen by people outside. The arch we see today however is a 19th century reconstruction as the original, like so much of Antigua, was destroyed by the 1773 earthquake. The clock on top is French and apparently has to be wound every three days, although we didn’t see anyone doing so on the several times we passed beneath the arch.
The classic view is not this one, but taken from the other side, when if you manoeuvre yourself carefully you can frame Volcan Agua in the arch. Unfortunately that side is north-facing, so is rarely as nicely lit as this early morning shot taken from the corner by our hotel, with instead of the volcano the church of La Merced glimpsed beyond.
This first rate visit is a well kept secret. The Casa Popenoe allows you to discover, perfectly preserved, what an Antigua house was like during the town's prime. Notice, on one of the photos, the antique marimba (the national instrument of Guatemala).
Open in the afternoon. Entrance is only $2.
Probably one of the most photogenic monuments in the world, this squat arch straddles the 5th Avenue. It is nothing much, but it is a delight to see again and again, under all kinds of light. When the sky is clear, you can position yourself so that the Arco frames the closest volcano.
Arguably the symbol of Antigua the world over, the Arco de Santa Catalina spans the width of 5a Avenida Norte just south of the Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Merced. The Convento de Santa Catalina was built on the west side of 5a Avenida Norte in 1613. There came a time when the order expanded across the street to the east. However the nuns practiced a vow of reclusion and did not allow contact or to even be seen by the local populace. In order to allow the nuns to cross from one side of 5a Avenida Norte without being seen, the Arco de Santa Catalina was built in 1694. As with many structures in Antigua, it was badly damaged during the 1773 earthquake but was restored in the 19th century which included the addition of the clock tower. The clock was damaged in a subsequent earthquake but was restored in 1991.
This landmark of Antigua is a few blocks north of Parque Central on 5 Avenida Norte. The Arch was built in 1693 to allow the Nuns from the Convent of La Merced on one side of the street to travel back and forth with the San Catalina school on the other without being seen. Today neither the Convent nor the school remain but the Arch has become Antigua's most famous landmark.
The Arco de Santa Catarina is a very famous landmark. Built in 1694 (and rebuilt in the 19th century), this arch was one of the few structures in town that withstood the 1773 quake. While in Antigua, it will be hard to miss the arches, as they are a very noticeable feature in a popular part of town. While I was there, there was a live concert under the arches one night with great music.
This building was originally the University of San Carlos Booremeo founded in 1676. Today it houses the colonial art musuem. Photgraphy is forbidden insde the building but I got these shots of the courtyard of the building which is the real attraction here not the art within.
Built in 1743, the Antigua City Hall sits across the street from the northeast corner of the Parque Central. The structure was built with seismic forces in mind as it has survived the many earthquakes since its inception much better than a lot of the churches in town. The city government runs things from the offices within but visitors are welcome to explore for a small fee. Two museums, the Museo de Santiago and the Museo del Libro Antiguo are also housed in the building.
The classy, white building at the southside of the Parque Central is the most important political remaining of the days that Antigua still was the capital of Spanish Central America. Until 1773 this building was the base for the government that ruled everything from the south of Mexico until Costa Rica. After this year, the seat of the government was transferred to Guatemala-City. Today the building is used for several purposes. It is the office of National Police, the seat of the Governor of the Province Sacatepéquez and you can find the tourist office here.
The Palacio de los Capitanes has an impressive facade with two stores of white arches along the complete width of the square. The columns on the ground and the first floor are heavy and solid and the big wooden doors behind the arches are just as massive-looking. Like a lot of buildings in Antigua this palace could use some restaurationwork, but on the other hand this is part of the charme of the building.
We really enjoyed strolling through beautiful Antigua and marvelling at the wonderful colourful stone buildings and fine examples of colonial architecture. The dramatic backdrop for these magnificant stone building was...narrow cobblestone streets and a scattering of ruins with colourful flowers tumbling over broken walls.
Probably the most famous structure in the city: the Arco de Santa Catalina. It is situated in the mainstreet from the Parque Central towards the church Nuestra Señora de la Merced.
This Arch is one of the only buildings in the city that survived the big earthquake of 1773. It was built in 1694 as a part of the neighbouring cloister. This was the best way to make it possible for the nuns to cross the street without being seen.
The arch has the same bright yellow colour as many other buildings in the city. It has a white clock on the tower in the middle of it and great view to all ways: towards the north you have a look of the Nuestra Señora, and to the south you see the Volcano Agua above the Parque Central.
Luckily the street of the Arco is closed for traffic most of the times, so the pictures you take have no disturbing cars on it.
Antigua is magical. One can come here and enjoy the magnificent architecture or go for a ride on a horse carriage along the cobble stoned streets. The Parque Central is the towns main square although not the only park.
This Huge colonial convent (takes up almost a whole city block) were built by the Jesuits (Soldiers of Christ) in 1626; this was their church, convent and school (Colegio de San Francisco de Borja) until 1767 when they were throw out from all Latin America by King Carlos III of Spain by order of the Vatican. Heavily damaged by several earthquakes, it was restored by the Spanish Cooperation office and was reopened in 1997 by Sofia Queen of Spain. Actually is a cultural center, with arts exhibitions and has a great library
This church was the first construction of this Jesuit Complex, and was started in 1676. Actually the ruins of the church are closed waiting for a future restoration. This picture shows the church with a kind of monument dedicated to the interesting "Los Desaparecidos" exhibition about the missing persons in Latin America under the military´s regimes.
Just walking around you can enjoy this place, visit as much museums and historic buildings as you can, be sure to read about their history and inportance to Guatemala itself as part of the central american history.