A Travellerspoint blog

January 2013

Jesus, Saints, and Angels oh my!

Wandering through shops, churches, and museums

sunny 75 °F

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How many churches and museums are there in Antigua? Too many to see in a couple if days! I run past several every day. They're not always open and services are held at various times during the day, but I find that if they are open everyone is welcomed. Many churches have restrictions about photography and video so I can't always take photos inside but it's OK to take pictures of the grounds.

I visited La Catedral, San Francisco, Casa Santo Domingo and along the way saw the staging area for Holy Week. It never ceases to amaze the amount of gold leaf that covers the wooden carvings on the altars and side chapels. The priests of the colonial era knew how to venerate in style. Everywhere I go there are statues, big and small, icons and images, saints and devils some in museums, some in homes, some in stores. And in an odd way, it's all alright. They fit here.

At the Cathedral which is located on the Parque Central [Central Park] there are some amazing statutes that date back to the 16th and 17th century.

Walking down the famous street with the arch and clock in Antigua there's an area churches use for staging their floats for the processions on Holy Week. I was able to put my camera through the wrought iron gates to get a few shots.
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Rather than go into La Merced, which would have been my next stop, I kept walking until I reached Casa Santo Domingo. As I've mentioned before, it is a favorite stop of mine, I love all the statues they have on display throughout the common areas. As I've mentioned before, it is a favorite stop of mine, I love all the statues they have on display throughout the common areas. It is quite expensive to have a meal there, but having an appetizer and a drink at the lounge is reasonable and provides nice ambiance. There is no cost to walking around and enjoying the grounds except if you want to go the museum at the back of the property. I found that if you come after 6:00 pm you can wander the grounds without paying a fee at the museum. It still provides some beautiful photography, although I did not go back today. Some other nice items to see are the fountains and macaws.

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My final stop on this day's wandering was the San Francisco Church. It was more spectacular than I imagined. Its claim to fame is that it is the place of internment of Brother Pedro de San Jose Betancur. Hermano Santo Pedro was born in March 19, 1627 in the Canary Islands. The story goes he decided to come to Guatemala in hopes of finding a relative that was working with the government here. He ran out of money in is journey and had to work in Havana, Cuba to get enough passage to make it to Guatemala. One version of the story goes that he was let off in Honduras sick and left to die but recovered and walked to Antigua, another version simply says that he made it to Guatemala City, but left destitute and sick he joined the bread lines of the Franciscan Order. He enrolled in the local seminary (Jesuit College of San Borgia) hoping to become a priest, but he could not master the materials and soon left. He eventually became a Franciscan tertiary (third order) in the convent of Costa Rica in Antigua Guatemala where he took the name of "Peter of Saint Joseph." He visited the sick, poor, homeless and started the first hospital in Antigua. He wrote devotionals and a rule that became the foundation of a new order called la Orden de los Bethlemitas y de las Bethlemitas, subsequently recognized and approved by the Holy See. He died in Antigua in April 25, 1667. He was beatified on June 22, 1980 and was canonized on July 30, 2002 by Pope John Paul II. A plaque near his tomb in the San Francisco Church quotes Pope John Paul II calling "Hermano Pedro" the "first Canarian and Guatemalan saint."


The church at San Francisco actually doesn't allow photography inside. I didn't realize that until after I took the photo of the altar, so I don't have any other photos of the inside which was quite lovely. I found the altar interesting because of all the layers of statues. It's difficult to see in this photo, but the statue at the bottom window shows Jesus carrying his cross, the one above him is a statue of Jesus with his right arm bent at the elbow and his hand in a blessing with his index and next finger in a kind of peace sign. The third window from the bottom could be Jesus again in heaven or it could be a representation of God with a staff that looks like a tree. The top window seems to be the angel Gabriel with wings extended and a lance in his hand.


The cross on the left sits outside in the main courtyard of the San Francisco Church. It caught my attention by the way it told of Jesus' Crucifixion through the implements used to create the cross and what happened while he was dieing, the gambling represented by dice, his clothing represented by the robe, the cross of thorns, the implements of torture used to strike him. It gave me great pause as I studied the cross and made me think of the story of the passion of Christ. It was to me much more powerful than seeing Christ on the cross bleeding.


I would be remiss if I didn't include one of my favorite photos which I call "Saints for Sale." I took it in a shop off Arch Street where I am reminded that everything is available if you just look hard enough.

Posted by Aeren 15:47 Archived in Guatemala Tagged churches statues religion jesus saints catholicism Comments (0)

Chim, chim, cher-ee!

Enjoying the rooftops of Antigua through chimeneas

semi-overcast 70 °F

I've found something else that strikes my fancy..."chimeneas" [chimneys]. When I walk around in the states and look up at rooftops I may see a number of chimneys in any one house. Stately homes may sport for or five meaning they have lots of fireplaces, but generally the look of them is pretty boring. A brick rectangular structure protruding from the roof strait up in a perfect line reaching up to the sky. No definition unless the bricklayer and architect have decided on a distinctive pattern like herringbone or offsetting bricks to create some three dimensional illusion.

Chimney sweeps from Mary Poppin's classic "Chim, chim, cher-ee!" would have a hard time fitting through the chimeneas in Antigua. As with many Spanish colonial cities, there is a tradition of design with the chimeneas. Function does not negate style when it comes to chimeneas. They can be fanciful, look like miniatures of the home they are warming, or have many windows or balconies. Once one of these caught my eye I began searching for them in earnest. I found many to photograph and here are some of my favorites:

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Posted by Aeren 14:24 Archived in Guatemala Tagged rooftops Comments (0)

A View From Above

Santo Domingo del Cerro

sunny 74 °F

There are lots of things to see in Antigua, but one of the least expensive and easiest ones is Santo Domingo del Cerro. A friend took me to lunch there shortly after I arrived and I kicked myself for not bringing my camera. I rectified that in a subsequent visit.


Why am I raving about this place. Well there are two museums, one outdoor and one indoor. Lots of beautiful art, a chapel that is just lovely, a great view of the valley below and the Tenedor restaurant with wonderful chefs and reasonable prices. Other than having a meal there then entire experience is FREE! That's right even getting up to the cerro doesn't cost a dime. All you have to do is go to Casa Santo Domingo located at 3a Calle Oriente No 28 A, Antigua Guatemala and ask to catch the bus going to el cerro. Both places are owned by the same person. I walked up and the bus (more like an open trolley) was just pulling up. I climbed on board and they drove up, up, up the hill to get to the awesome views.


Once you get off the trolley, you've got lots of options to explore. There's the indoor museum or you can stay outside and make your way to the chapel.


I've been to lots of chapels up on hills, but this one is amazing. The cross is actually hanging on the outside of the glass. The chapel is used for weddings. [br]
12b-Passio..Chaves-2010.jpg On the back side of the chapel there's a striking wooden carving of Jesus' foot with a nail through it. Called "La Pasion" (The Passion) it leaves a lot to the imagination as to the rest of Jesus' physical condition.

There's too much art to do take photos of all of it, but I'll give you a taste of it below. Click on the photos and there's more description on each one.

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Once I was done wandering and taking pictures, coming back was just as easy. There's a telephone there you can use to call for the trolly yourself or ask one of the staff to call for you.

Posted by Aeren 19:04 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

Artistry at the door

Door Knockers in Antigua

69 °F

It's easy walking around Guatemala and seeing all the old architecture and think, "Wow where do I begin photographing this?" Frankly, it's all been photographed, hundreds and hundreds of times by thousands of tourists. From the volcanoes to the churches. A few years ago I saw a poster of the the "Doors of Antigua" which was quite lovely. So I decided on looking for the little things that many people overlook. I loved the idea of the doors, in fact I did that in Xela when I lived there for a month, But I decided to delve a little deeper and spend a day photographing door knockers that caught my fancy.

You could imagine the look I got from people as I approached a door and pulled out my camera and clicked a quick picture of the door knocker. I'm sure many thought, "what kind of a nut is this?" Two little children were so taken they followed me for a couple of blocks and asked me why I was taking pictures of doors and I explained I liked the door knockers and then they just started laughing and went home. I think as foreigners we get that a lot. Sometimes there is a general mistrust of foreigners, we are necessary for their economy, but we are a pain. We come here with our dollars and attempt to bargain down little old ladies who are already at rock bottom prices. I say "we", but I actually haven't bought anything yet other than a meal out and some chocolate for a friend who was feeling a little down. I know I will buy some things before I go, but I can't but help to think about how long it takes to make these textiles and I feel guilty about bargaining down too much. But I digress... I was talking about door knockers. Below are the fruits of my labor.

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Posted by Aeren 15:57 Archived in Guatemala Tagged doors Comments (0)

Shuffling Along

The Rhythm of the City

sunny 73 °F


Every morning since arriving in Antigua, I get up and either go for a run or walk through a city that is just waking up. I see people cleaning the Parque Central which is surrounded by the Cathedral, Municipal Building, and a variety of restaurants. I see mothers carrying their infants on slings and the wares they hope to sell that day. There is a pace that is more of a shuffle that is neither slow or fast, just steady. I try to fit into that pace weaving left and right on the tight sidewalks with a soft "Buenos dias" as I pass each person.


My routes are not set, I meander north or south, east or west making my way in a what looks like a grid throughout the city. I have to be careful of the broken sidewalks, the uneven cobblestone streets, the occasional holes that seem to appear from nowhere, and of course the little brown presents left by the dogs that wander the streets. Yet, even though in deep concentration of every step I make, I manage to make mental notes of the beauty around me and what would make good photographs. Later in the day I set out to capture the images I recalled from the morning run.


The cobblestone streets are quite interesting on their own. The old waterlines are constantly stressed and there are ruptures all over. The stones also loosen with the constant pressure applied on them by the traffic. Not a day goes by that there are not workers repairing the cobblestones in a constant struggle to even out the street. Why not then just repave them with more efficient more modern methods? I think it's because it would change the entire rhythm of the inner city not to mention the character of the old town. Cars, bikes, motorcycles, tuk-tuks and yes, even horse drawn carriages rumble along in a slow methodical pace. Occasionally, some young motorcyclist will speed up and pass several cars to show off his bike, but generally everyone keeps to this pace.


When I first arrived in the city I had little clue as to what the direction of traffic was going. There seemed to be little rhyme or reason. Streets didn't seem to be marked, but in my daily routine I now see they are. It's just not marked on every corner. Major streets are known because they don't have any stop signs on them. The side streets have a stop sign on a corner building which also serve as a great clue to tell you the direction of the traffic! Generally though, I realize it doesn't really matter if I don't know if a street is "una via" (one way) or "doble via" (two way). I generally have more than enough time to walk across the street because of the slow pace of the vehicles. It is a rhythm that I could get used to.

Posted by Aeren 13:29 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

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