Nuestra Señora de la Merced, Antigua Guatemala
The “Iglesia y Convento de Nuestra Señora de la Merced”, to give it its full name, is one of the loveliest in Antigua, and unlike many has been fully restored. On a sunny day its vibrant yellow paint and intricate white carvings are truly stunning. Notice how short the bell-tower is – a necessary precaution in this earthquake-ravaged city. Entrance to the church is free and it’s worth going inside to see the striking altarpiece (photo 5).
You will however need to pay a small fee to enter the monastery attached to one side of the church (on your left as you look towards the west door). This was never restored after the destruction of the Santa Marta quake and is rather atmospheric, as are so many of Antigua’s ruins. At the centre of the cloister is the Fuente de Peces, said to be the largest water fountain in Latin America. It is constructed in the shape of a water lily, although you’ll need to climb to the terrace above the cloister to fully appreciate its shape (photo 2). It’s also worth climbing up here for the lovely views of the city and volcanoes beyond.
La Merced is a classic destination in Antigua, and it is no surprise why. It is a beautiful colonial church, set at the outskirts of the old city, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The golden facade, with its intricte carvings and reliefs, are an invitation to step in and be a witness to the history of this town. Breathe slowly and drink in the ambiance and reverence as you pass the pews... enjoy your step back into history.
Just a block north of the Arco de Santa Catalina, La Merced has a beautiful yellow and white terra cotta baroque facade. Construction was originally begun in 1548 but has undergone many restorations due to earthquake damage. The main part of the church has been restored and is still in use today. Other portions of the grounds remain in ruins although it has been cleaned up and no debris can be found lying around like at many other ruin sites in Antigua.
Within the monestary area is a huge fountain, reputed to be the largest in Central America. The fountain is in the shape of a water lily which is thought to be a symbol of power among the Maya. This has caused some to believe that Mayan laborers may have had an influence in the construction of the fountain and the church.
There is a small fee to enter the grounds. Depending on the time of day and the day of the week the church area may not be open to visitors. Check with the person taking entry fees on accesibility.
When you go north from the Parque Central, and you go underneath the Arco de Santa Catalina, you will automatically end up at the most beautiful church (if not the most beautiful building overall) in Antigua: the Nuestra Señora de la Merced.
This church has its origin in 1548, when the first construction began. Again this construction doesn't excist anymore: in 1717 another earthquake destroyed the church. The reconstructions began soon after this disaster and were completed in 1767, but only a few years afterwards, another earthquake occured and heavily damaged the newly finished church.
Again the reconstruction started, but this time it took a long time before they started: between 1850 and 1855 the building was made into the one we can see at this moment.
The most striking part of the church is its fantastic, yellow front facade. Very detailed sculptures and statues cover the complete wall which dominates the nice cobblestoned square in front of it.
Inside the church is less impressive then on the outside: besides some statues, the most interesting thing to see to my opinion are the fantastically dressed up Maya-people inside.
This beautiful yellow church is the most eye catching of all . The white elaborate lacy trim reminded me of frosting on a cake . It was originally built in 1548 and destroyed in 1717 and eventually rebuilt . It somehow survived the big quake of 1773.
We were lucky enough to see a horsedrawn wedding procession on the Sat we went by.
The Iglesia y Convento de Nuestra Señora de La Merced is Antigua’s most striking colonial church. La Merced’s construction began in 1548. Improvements continued until 1717, when the church was ruined by earthquakes. Reconstruction was completed in 1767, but in 1773 earthquake struck again and the convent was destroyed. Repairs to the church were made from 1850 to 1855; its baroque façade dates from this period. Inside the ruins is a fountain 27m in diameter - said to be the largest in Central America. Admission to the convent costs US$0.25 and is well worth it.
The very beautiful Iglesia de la Merced was built in 1540. I was there on a weekend afternoon and there was lots of activity...infant baptisms. I did go in and saw many displays of the colonial times. I could not take pictures because of the worship activity. The facade in the picture appeared to be freshly restored.