Acuña was a shy and timid artist but rich in talent. He was born in 1904 in a small place in Santander of Colombia. He studied in Bogota and later in Paris. He visited Germany and Spain where Pablo Picasso helped him find his personal style. In 1929 he returned to Colombia and made a lot of exhibitions, was praised a lot and was recognised as a charismatic artist. He was a painter, a sculptor and a writer. He married twice and had sons from his first marriage and daughters from his second. His second wife was 35 years younger and he married her when he was 73!!! He has been greatly inspired from Muisca mythology but also of contemporary art. His murals with themes from indigenous cultures were published in stamps. He died in Tunja in 1993!
He founded this museum himself to keep many of his paintings as well as antiques and other archaeological items he and his friends had acquired. Some of the most beautiful objects are the collection of Italian violins, one of which is a Stradivarius! (created by the most famous violin makers Antonius Stradivari!)
It is open every day from 9:00am until 6:00pm
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Villa de Leyva may seem short on actual sights but one thing it has a plethora of are balconies. It is a town full of charming colonial architecture and one of the hallmark features of such buildings are gorgeous wooden balconies. A stroll through its cobblestone streets with a camera in hand is all the scenery you'll ever need. We timed our visit for midweek to avoid crowds and also went out early in the morning to have the town virtually to ourselves.
One of the more charming city parks in Villa de Leyva is Parque Ricaurte. It is across from Antonio Ricaurte's home of birth which now houses a museum full of furniture and weapons of the period. Ricaurte was renowned for his heroic deeds including blowing himself up to do the same to a Spanish battalion closing in on the city's armory full of gunpowder! Admission 3000 COP ($1.50).
Parque Narino is an unassuming public park that you would easily stroll past without much notice. It is named after Antonio Narino who was a large figure in Colombia's independence. His home is just up the street on Carerra 9 and is now a small museum of colonial artifacts and personal possessions of the fierce defender of human rights. Admission 3000 COP ($1.50). Though it offers more shade than the town's main square, Plaza Mayor, it's palm trees are hardly perfect for such a purpose. That said, the small park provides a nice place for locals to sit outside and escape from the heat of the day. We only really used it once when we first got to town. My wife sat there while I went and looked for a room. She felt quite safe and it was a nice place to relax after the very long bus ride from El Cocuy. Its central location made it perfect for me to check a few rooms out before deciding which one to take.
Little Iglesia de San Augustin no longer is used for religious purposes and unfortunately is not open to the public. There is little information about the cute white-washed church that sits prettily behind Parque Ricaurte .
Iglesia del Carmen is only the second active church in Villa de Leyva and worth peeking into for its paintings and fine carved wood. Your best shots of it will be in the morning light as it faces somewhat easterly though we found its sparse but tasteful light made for good night shots too. Bring a tripod.
Iglesia Parroquial is a simple parish church built in 1608 with no history of disaster in its past, making for a charming old building very much lost in time. Its key feature is an impressive gold retable that stands out in its otherwise stark surroundings. It is the main building on Plaza Mayor and makes for great photogenic fodder at sunset with its west-facing orientation. It is very much an active church and it seemed to have a mass either going on most of the times we looked in.
Plaza Mayor is quite possibly the largest square in the Americas at an impressive 120m by 120m but it seems even bigger due to a lack of much ornamentation on the square itself aside from the obligatory fountain. The large cobble-stoned area that is the vast square is oddly devoid of any trees or plants of any kind and makes for a somewhat eery and not all that inviting place to hand out. That said, it is a popular place in the evenings when the often blistering sun has set, making the lack of shade a non-factor.
Villa de Leyva's main attraction is an expansive cobblestone Plaza Mayor. This impressive plaza with a total area of 14.000 square metres (measuring 120m by 120m) is supposedly the largest main square in the country. It is the heart of the town and the social life, everything is going on around the plaza. Plaza Mayor is the best place to start your tour of the town.
Plaza Mayor is surrounded by magnificent whitewashed colonial houses with typical balconies and doors. Buildings bordering the plaza include bars, restaurants, small hotels, handicraft shops and a couple of small banks with cash machines. On the southeast of the plaza is the Iglesia Parroquial, a parish church with the steps, built in 1608. Compared to other smaller squares of Colombia, it does not have any decoration. There is only a small fountain in the middle which provided water to inhabitants of Villa de Leyva for centuries. But perhaps it's this vast expanse that gives the plaza a very unique feel.
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Iglesia del Carmen is a striking building that belongs to a Carmelite monastic order. A simple, dignified church with a large fine Lady Chapel was built in 1850. It has some beautiful paintings in the chancel, including an image of the Virgen del Carmelo (Virgin of Carmelo), and the wooden structure that supports the roof.
The church is open Mon-Sat 6:30am-8am and Sun 6:30am-8am & 11am-noon.
Located in the Plazuela del Carmen is the Museo del Carmen, housed in the convent of the same name. This well-stocked museum of religious art is adjacent to the Iglesia del Carmen. A collection of religious objects includes paintings, carvings, altarpieces and communion vessels dating from the 16th century onward. It is considered one of the best museums of religious art in the country.
The museum is open Sat, Sun and holidays 10am-1pm & 2pm-5pm.
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Antonio Nariño was a Colombian patriot, liberal intellectual and passionate defender of human rights in Latin America. He won acclaim for translating Thomas Paine's Rights of Man into Spanish and is revered through Colombia for his commitment to promoting socioeconomic justice. Colombia even named one of its provinces in his honor.
Casa Museo de Antonio Nariño was built in 1600 and this is where the independence hero spent a few years prior to his death in 1823. He moved to this house to improve his health but soon died. Nariño enjoyed the scenery from the balcony and only left the house for taking a walk or visiting friends.
This beautiful mansion was restored in 1970 by the Ministerio de Obras Públicas (Ministry of Public Works), making it a monument to the memory of the precursor of Colombia's independence. It was restored again between 1999 and 2003. The house has been converted into museum containing colonial objects (furniture, ceramics) and memorabilia related to this great man. Behind a house is a nice patio.
It is open Thur-Thus 9am-noon & 2pm-5pm. Admission is COP 3.000 (January 2009).
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This is a very simple Stonehedge-type site with 30 big monoliths put in regular distances or lying on the ground and several smaller ones. According to archaeologists they are more than 2200 years old. They were used by old tribes of Muiscas to determine the seasons. Other anthropologists believe it was a place where Muiscas gathered for rituals and religious events of fertility because of the phallic shape of some monoliths. It is also called Infiernito ( little hell) because the Spanish wanted to promote its association with the devil and prevent the Indians from coming. In this way they would lure them to come to church....
It is just 6 kms away and is accessible by bus, on foot or on bike.
As I was wandering in the pretty streets I saw a couple smiling at me. We chatted for a while and I learned they had the little language school where they practised what they really loved and had studied. The lady has a master in Social Communication so she teaches languages in her school. You should drop in if you feel like taking a few classes of Spanish. Her name is Mary Aneles Grasso Camacho.
Inglesia del Carmen is situated on a little plaza with the same name. It is just a block away from the main square on Carrera 10 and Calle 14. Next to it there is a a museum of religious art called Museo de Carmen housing paintings and religious items . Some are dating back in the 16th century. The church was built in 1850 and is simple and pretty.
The huge, empty cobbled Plaza Mayor is really beautiful. It's the heart of the city that counts its people's footsteps every day. Everyone crosses the square at least once a day! The line of the white washed houses with the beautiful doors and the charming church gives it a special splendour.
Especially beautiful the sunsets in the cobbled square! In the dusk light, the walls take a sweet pink colour matching perfectly the dark blue sky !!!! It is the largest square in Colombia with each side measuring 120 meters and a total area of more than 14,000 square meters.
When the lights come on it is the perfect picture!!!
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