Plaza Mayor, the main square of Santa Fe de Antioquia, is where most people meet, sitting on one of the benches in the small park, chatting, eating or just watching the world pass by. The square is overshadowed by the Cathedral on one side, and palm trees, small bars, restaurants and market stalls on the other three sides. The wooden stalls are loaded with local crafts, fruit and tamarind cakes, candies, cookies and other assorted presentations of sweets made from sweet and sour fruit popular in the region.
Plaza Mayor is dominated by the fountain donated to town by Medellín. It has been supplying water to the town for 450 years. There is also a bronze statue of Juan del Corral, the town's liberator and the president of Antioquia between 1813 and 1826 when Santa Fe de Antioquia was the capital of Antioquia.
I spent some time in the main square, visiting the stalls where I bought some typical tamarind sweets, having a rest in the shadow of one of the mango trees.
Museo Juan del Corral is a beautiful colonial mansion from the 18th century converted into museum. It was open in 1970 with the help of community who donated a lot of objects for the exhibition. The museum is named after the town's liberator Juan del Corral. It was closed due to restoration in 1996 and reopened again only recently. During the time when it was closed the museum was incorporated into Museo de Arte Religioso next to the Iglesia de Santa Bárbara.
The museum's collection represents different periods in the history of the department and the town of Santa Fe de Antioquia. There is a nice collection of historical items - furniture, paintings, gold objects, ceramics, documents, archaeological and ethnographic items - from colonial and more recent times. Two rooms in the house, the bedroom and the kitchen, represent the customs and the original ambience of the 19th century. Among museum's most valuable relics is the table where Juan del Corral signed the Act of Independence of Antioquia in 1813. During Christmas time, when I visited, there was also an interesting exhibition of handcrafted nativities made in different techniques and by various authors.
more pictures in the travelogue
The museum is normally open at weekends and holidays from 10:00am to 5:00pm. Admission was 1.000 COP (December 2009).
At the southeastern end of Calle 10, just a few blocks from Iglesia de Jesús Nazareno, you find the local cemetery. Though much smaller than Cementerio de San Pedro in Medellín, it's a peaceful and tranquil place which has historic tombstones and a 150-year-old cemetery chapel. Walls with tombs are decorated with flowers and notes.
At the entrance to the cemetery is a lovely Parque del Cementerio with two benches to relax in the shadow of a huge tree which was quite a relief after walking in the midday heat for some time. This little park is also one of the places where Festival de Cine y Video de Santa Fe de Antioquia takes place.
Iglesia de Jesús Nazareno is another classical style building. It is from the early 19th century but another church stands here before. During colonial time it served as a cemetery and many priests were buried here. In 1828 the first stone was laid for the present church which was then opened in 1855, still unfinished.
Iglesia de Jesús Nazareno has has some similarities with Catedral Basicilca Metropolitana. It has white façade, built in neoclassical style with baroque details. The church is notable for the wood sculptures of Jesus on the cross and the representation of the Crown of Thorns. As other churches of Santa Fe de Antioquia, it is normally open for the evening mass.
Facing the Plazoleta de la Chincha is Iglesia de Chiquinquirá, popularly known as Iglesia de la Chincha. It is dedicated to the Virgin Mary under the protection of the Virgin of Chiquinquirá. The present church was constructed in 1868 on the site of a 17th century Franciscan temple. Built in a neoclassical style with baroque details, it has an interesting façade made by coloured stones and bricks. The façade is decorated with double belfry which is typical for antioqueña style. An old painting of the Virgin of Chinquirá is built into the modern marble altar.
The church was closed when I visited but it is usually open for the evening mass.
Located next to the Plazuela de Santa Bárbara, Iglesia de Santa Bárbara is one of the most impressive colonial era churches I saw in Colombia. It was built by the Jesuits at the end of the 18th century in a popular baroque style of Antioquia. Being the oldest standing church in the town, it is also called the Grandmother of the Churches of Antioquia. The church was recently restored and it is perfectly preserved.
I was amazed by its beautiful pebble masonry construction, elaborate baroque style arches and curves, and graceful wood and iron works. The wide west front is crowned with small towers and bells on top of a building. An interesting woodcarving of the Virgin is enshrined in the Altar of San Blas, which is the oldest altar in Santa Fe. The font is in rococo style and it is older than the building.
The church is open in the evening between 5-6:30pm and for morning mass on Sunday.
Overlooking the main square is the old cathedral, Catedral Basilica Metropolitana, sometimes referred to as the Catedral Madre, as it was the first church built in the region. The Cathedral was constructed in 1797. The original church was destroyed by fire, and the building you see today was only completed in 1837. Until that year Iglesia de Santa Bárbara served as cathedral. Catedral Madre has an imposing white façade while the lower part of the tower is made by coloured stones and bricks. It is a very cool looking church, however quite small for the cathedral.
The Cathedral is open for morning and evening mass, and 11am Sunday service. At the time of my visit it was closed for reparation works so I could not go inside. But from what I read, there is a fine 17th century Christ figure as the centerpiece of the high altar and a notable Last Supper sculpture from the 18th century, both worth having a look.
Once the capital of the state of Antioquia, Santa Fe is well-preserved colonial town. The biggest attraction is the town itself. A stroll through the quiet, tranquil cobblestone streets of Santa Fe de Antioquia is an absolute delight. The old colonial centre looks much as it did during the 1800's, with narrow streets, whitewashed colonial buildings, lovely courtyards, magnificent churches and mellow plazas to relax. Usually they are full of old men playing cards or simply watching the world go by.
The main square, Plaza Mayor, features the Cathedral, many sidewalk bars and stalls selling local crafts and fruit. Santa Fe de Antioquia has four churches and Iglesia de Santa Bárbara is certainly the most impressive. Small cafés and restaurants are tucked in the most unexpected corners. I had a nice lunch in a pleasant restaurant with a lush garden. The people of Santa Fe de Antioquia are very friendly and there is always somebody to talk to.
The church of Jesus Nazareno has a white façade in a neoclassical style with baroque details. It was constructed in 1828 on the site of an older church. It was closed when I visited and is normally only open for evening mass at 19.00.
This church with a classical façade is known as La Chinca and it has the full name Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Chiquinquira. It was constructed in 1868 on the site of a church from the 17th century. Also this church has been used as a prison in the past (as the tower of the cathedral). Normally it is only open daily for evening mass at 19.00. The doors were opened when I visited, but as a funeral procession just had left the church I didn’t want to enter.
The cathedral is situated by the main square. Its façade is not all white, but on the lower part of the tower you can see the bricks and their colours. The cathedral is built on the same site as the first church constructed in Santa Fe de Antioquia and the surroundings, but the building you see today was completed in 1837. The cathedral was closed when I visited and is only open for morning and evening mass and for mass at 11am on Sundays. I have heard the tower has been used as a prison earlier (it doesn’t look like a big prison).
Plaza Mayor is the main square in Santa Fe de Antioquia. It is nice to stroll around the square or sit down in the park to watch people. Around the square are wooden stalls selling a locally made sour-sweet candy made of tamarind. In the park there is a bronze statue of Juan del Corral, who was president of Antioquia the few years it was independent. There is also a 450 years old fountain in the square. Around the square you will see the Cathedral, restaurants and bars and the municipally building where the Tourist Office is situated.
The church of Santa Barbara has got a nice baroque façade, built in grey stone with white details. The church was built by Jesuits and finished in the 18th century. When I visited it was closed as it is only open in the evenings between 17 - 18.30, and for morning mass on Sundays. The church is sometimes called The Grandmother of the Churches of Antioquia.
I visited Santa Fe de Antioquia on a Monday when most museums are closed. I went to the tourist office (at Plaza Mayor) and asked if there were any museums opened and the only one was Museo Juan Del Corral. The museum opened up in 1960, but had been closed for the latest 13 years (so that’s probably why it wasn’t in my guide book). The museum is housed in a beautiful colonial mansion from the 18th century.
In the museum you can see the table where Juan Del Corral signed the Independence Act of Antioquia on the 11th of August 1813. There are many other furniture and other items from the same period in the museum, and there was also a temporary art exhibition with lovely paintings by a Colombian artist.
Admission was 1000 pesos (July 2008).