Wrath of the Gods

Antigua was founded in 1543, made the capital in 1550, damaged by an earthquake in 1565, rebuilt, damaged by another quake in 1577, rebuilt over and over again (in 1586, 1607, 1651, 1681, 1684, 1717, and 1751), and in 1773, was officially abandoned. Many beautiful, broken buildings remain.


La Recoleccion

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Andariega on August 22, 2005

El Colegio de Misioneros de Cristo Crucificado, better known as La Recoleccion, is Antigua's most awe-inspiring ruin. I had just visited San Jeronimo, a block away and had been quite impressed but La Recoleccion left me breathless. It is massive, with rubble the size of small houses. We had been told to look out for muggers because the ruins were in a remote area. Well, it definitely was not remote and the day we visited, there was plenty of activity, with kids playing ball and families picnicking, but I pass along the warning, be cautious when visiting this site. We spent a couple of hours here, walking about the rubble, fascinated by the detail on some of the fallen chunks. There are arches, no longer holding anything up, opening onto staircases leading to nothing. Even though the church is in ruins some of the walls still tower high above, giving a sense of safety. The gardens and grassy areas are a great place to sit and stare.

History of La Recoleccion
Antigua, then called Santiago de Guatemala, was a bustling, wealthy city, with way too many religious institutions, so when permission was asked, in 1685, to build another convent, it was denied. Despite local protest, permission was granted in 1700, and a lot was assigned outside city limits. Building started in 1701. The huge church was finished in 1715 and inaugurated in 1717. In that same year, an earthquake damaged the church. Repairs were immediately made, making the church even larger. The church was damaged again in 1751, repaired once more, severely damaged in 1773 and abandoned in 1774.

Over the years, material from the church was carted off and used for other constructions. In 1950, the city took over, cleaned it up and made it safe for the public to visit. During the 1976 earthquake La Recoleccion's famous arch fell. Since then there has been ongoing conservation of the ruins.

If your time is short and you can only visit a couple of sites, be sure to make this one of them. La Recoleccion located on Avenida La Recoleccion and 1 Calle Pte. To get here from the main plaza, head north on 5 Avenida; after three blocks turn left onto 1 Calle Pte; go four blocks and cross Avenida de la Recoleccion. It is open daily from 9am to 5pm and admission is Q30 (US$3.75) for foreigners.

La Recoleccion
Avenida de la Recoleccion
Antigua, Guatemala

Las Capuchinas

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Andariega on August 22, 2005

Told that Las Capuchinas was one of the more interesting ruins in town, we headed off, managing to get lost twice. This is quite embarrassing considering the size and the orderly layout of streets in Antigua. Finally, making it to the appropriate corner, we were not sure we were in the right place. There were no ruins to be seen, only an amazingly well-preserved grand old building built in the stocky manner often seen in this town. There were no religious decorations or signs indicating we were at a convent. We quietly pushed on the enormous doors, a section opened, and we entered a room where a friendly woman took our money and gave us a short lecture about the building. We were in the right place.

The first thing we noticed was a small wooden revolving door. This was where the nuns could accept donations and orphaned children without being seen or seeing people from the outside world. From here, we passed into a beautiful arcaded courtyard with a small fountain and purple and pink bougainvilleas growing against incredibly sturdy pillars. We then passed through hallways and another two courtyards before finally coming out into a luxuriant garden full of flowering trees and shrubs. From here, we could finally see the uncommon circular cloister for which Las Capuchinas is known. It looked like a small bullring more than anything else. This is also the first place we saw evidence of the damage reeked by the earthquakes. After meandering through the garden, we headed into the cloister, where there are 18 miniscule cells, a couple of which have been restored and furnished to show how the nuns lived. We spent another hour or two peeking into damaged rooms and looking at the gardens.

History
Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Zaragoza, better known as las Capuchinas, was founded in 1725, and the building was completed in 1736. It was the last convent to be built in the city and different from the others. The women who joined didn't have to pay dotage and had to give up all worldly possessions, living solely off the donations of the faithful. They were expected to live in total isolation. The convent housed 28 nuns at any given time. Las Capuchinas was damaged in the 1751 earthquake, but was restored. Not nearly as damaged as most other buildings during the 1773 quake, it was abandoned nonetheless. All religious art, including the figures from the facade, were taken to Guatemala City, along with doors, window grates, furniture, and anything else that could be moved. The building was sold in 1813 and put to many different uses. Protection and conservation of Las Capuchinas started in 1943. Restored partially in 1950, it now houses CNPAG, the agency in charge of protecting and restoring old buildings.

Las Capuchinas is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9am to 4pm or 6pm, depending on whom you ask. Admission is Q30 (US$3.75) for foreigners.

Convento de Las Capuchinas
Antigua
Antigua, Guatemala

Ruins

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Andariega on August 22, 2005

These ruins are all within a few blocks of each other, east of the plaza.

Santa Clara
Past
Nuns from Puebla, Mexico came to Antigua to found the Santa Clara church and convent in 1699. The 1717 earthquake seriously damaged the construction and it took almost twenty years to rebuild. It was inaugurated again in 1734 and was housing forty-six nuns. It was abandoned after the 1773 quake. It was later used as housing until the roof fell in during the 1874 quake. In 1944, when the city was declared a national monument, the site was cleaned up and reconditioned, making it safe to open to the public. In 1976, during another earthquake, there was more damage but the place has now been restored to its 1976 state, sort of.
Present
The convent has a beautiful facade, covered in archangels and saints. It is located on the corner of 6 Calle Ote and 2 Avenida Sur, open daily from 8am to 5pm, and admission is 30Q (US$3.75) for foreigners.

Iglesia de San Francisco
Past
The first temple was built in 1579 but was soon destroyed. Its ruins are next to the San Francisco ruins. The present church was built throughout the 17th century. It started small but was enlarged in 1684, damaged by earthquake in 1689, and built bigger and better. By 1702, it covered four blocks and contained the church, a convent, a school and a hospital. There was severe damage during the 1717 quake and even more in 1751. In 1773, it was almost completely ruined. Reconstruction began in 1960 to much criticism. Many thought it was being made too whole, being turned into a "new" ruin. The facade was also restored; its figures are from the 20th century.
Present
It is located on 7 Calle Ote and 1 Avenida Sur and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 8am to 6pm. Inside is a museum, El Museo del Santo Hermano Pedro, which displays the religious belongings of Saint Hermano Pedro, still in remarkably good condition. Other religious objects, mostly paintings, are also displayed. It is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9am to 5pm. Admission is Q3 (US$.37).

La Concepcion
Past
Built in the late 16th century, La Concepcion was one of the largest and the most luxurious of Antigua's convents. It covered five blocks and the nuns lived in grand style, surrounded by beautiful objects and creature comforts. It was seriously damaged in the 1717 quake and was damaged some more in 1751 and 1773. It was abandoned in 1774.
Present
Little remains of this huge construction and much of what is left is buried. The front, built in 1694 remains, as do the cloisters. These ruins are on private property and not open to the public but are definitely worth a stop-and-peek from the street. They are located on 4 Calle Ote, east of 1 Avenida.

Tikal National Park
Peten Basin
Tikal, Guatemala
+502 2367-2837

More Ruins

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Andariega on August 22, 2005

These ruins are all within a few blocks of each other, northeast of the plaza. None of them is open to the public, but all are worth a stop to view them from the street.

El Carmen
Past
La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Carmen was built in 1638, but was completely destroyed in 1651. It was then built bigger and better in 1656, only to be destroyed in 1717. Built one more time in 1728, it was destroyed again in 1773. The ruins of El Carmen were ruined some more in the 1976 earthquake. In the 1990s, some restoration work was done.
Present
This church is unique in town, as it has a baroque style and proportions. The best time to visit is at night, when the beautiful facade is lit up. It is located on 3 Avenida Nte between 2 Calle Ote and 3 Calle Ote.

Santa Teresa
Past
This church and convent was built in 1677 and damaged in 1717. It was repaired around 1740, only to be destroyed by the 1773 earthquake.
Present
Some of the church walls and a beautiful facade still stand. It is worth a visit. Santa Teresa is not open to the public, with the exception of naughty boys. It is the men’s prison. It is located at 1 Calle Ote and 4 Avenida Nte.

La Candelaria
Past
There is little documented history of La Candelaria. It was built in 1550, and all during its first century, mass was delivered in the local Mayan language of Pipil. It was probably remodeled during the 18th century. It was barely affected by the 1717 and 1751 quakes, but was almost destroyed during the one in 1773.
Present
It has a lovely facade with spiraling pillars and conch-shell designs, built during the 18th century. Nowadays, it serves as a parking lot and basketball court. It is located on Avenida 1 Norte at the very north of town.

Santa Rosa de Lima
Past
Built sometime before 1580, Santa Rosa de Lima was originally named Beaterio de Santa Catalina de Siena. Women of town’s elite class were housed here. If I understood correctly, they were not nuns, but devoted their lives to reading, sewing, and religious activities. In 1677, the convent was remodeled. The present-day church was built in 1720 and destroyed in the 1773 earthquake. The 1976 quake also did extensive damage.
Present
The church is on private property. Even though a wall surrounding the grounds and abundant vegetation block much of the view, this was my favorite stop-and-peek site. The structure is beautifully ruined. For some reason, it gave me a very peaceful feeling. It is located at the end of 1 Calle Ote.

Antigua Ruins
Antigua
Antigua, Guatemala

Even More Ruins

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Andariega on August 22, 2005

These ruins are within a few blocks of each other, northwest of the plaza.

Santa Catarina
Past
Also known as Santa Catalina, this convent was built in 1609 to address a lack of housing for local nuns. In 1693, an arch was built over the street, connecting the convent to the church, so the nuns could honor their vow not to be seen in public. In 1697, the convent reached its maximum occupancy of 110 nuns. It was abandoned, like most other establishments in town, in 1773. In 1775, it was turned into housing. The arch was restored in 1853 and again in the 20th century.
Present
Today part of the church and the cloister walls stand in ruin. The arch still exists and is probably Antigua's most famous landmark. We read that the convent is open to the public; but the church and the arch are not. We could not find the entrance.

La Merced
Past
La Merced, the first monastery of Antigua, was built in 1548. The present church was built in 1767 by the architect Juan de Dios Estrada who, taking into consideration the local seismic activity, designed a structure with short proportion, thick walls and a sturdy facade. The church survived all the earthquakes up to the second earthquake in 1773 when it sustained moderate damage and was abandoned. It was restored in 1853; damaged some in 1976 and promptly fixed. The convent was destroyed by the 1773 quake.
Present
One of the few old churches still standing in town, La Merced is also the easiest to recognize. It is yellow and its facade is decorated with swirling and frilly white designs in a technique known as ataurique. It is open daily from 7 am to noon and again from 3 pm to 8 pm. The convent, still in ruins, houses the largest fountain in Antigua. It is open daily from 9am to 6pm. Admission is Q3 (US$ .37).

San Jeronimo
Past
San Jeronimo was built as a school in 1739. It was completed in 1759 but because of red tape, was closed two years later. The king gave orders to tear it down. He was ignored and in 1765, it became the Real Aduana (Royal Custom House). It was abandoned in 1773.
Present
San Jeronimo is a pleasant place to spend a few hours, with its fountain and grassy areas. Mostly in ruins, the kitchen, a small chapel from the 18th century, and the front of the school remain standing. It is open daily 8am to 5pm and admission is Q30 (US$3.75) for foreigners.

La Compañia de Jesus
Past
This school was started in 1607 and the church was inaugurated in1626. A new church was started in 1689 but because of earthquake damage was not inaugurated until 1698. It was seriously damaged in 1751 and restored in 1755, but was abandoned in 1767 when the Jesuits were kicked out of Hispanic America. It was badly damaged in 1773 along with the rest of Antigua. During the 1800s, it was a textile factory until the roof and cupola collapsed. In 1912, a market was set up here until the 1976 quake caused even more damage. In 1978, it was partially restored. During its heyday, La Compañia de Jesus consisted of the school, the church, a convent, a library, a hospital and fruit orchards.
Present
The front of the church is still standing where some original, and some recreated, fresco work can be seen. Restoration work is now being done by a Spanish company. The church is not accessible to the public but the convent is open daily from 9am to 6pm. No admission is charged.


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