Antigua, laid out in the Italian Renaissance style in 1543, about 30 km west of today’s capital Guatemala, was completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1773. The ruins still bear witness to what was once the most beautiful baroque city in Latin America. Visit cachedhealth.com for Guatemala the heart of the Mayan empire.
Antigua Guatemala: facts
|Official title:||Antigua Guatemala|
|Cultural monument:||Spanish colonial architecture a. with the once five-aisled Catedral de Santiago, the Churrigueresque masterpiece La Merced, the ruins of La Recollección and the former Capuchin monastery of Las Capuchinas with the “tower of seclusion” and 18 cells|
|Location:||Antigua Guatemala, in the Panchoy Valley, southwest of Guatemala City|
|Meaning:||a former capital laid out in the style of the Italian Renaissance and in the 18th century one of the most beautiful and oldest baroque cities in Hispanic America|
Antigua Guatemala: history
|1527||Foundation of the capital Muy Noble y Muy Leal Ciudad de Santiago de los Caballeros|
|1541||Destruction by a mudslide after the eruption of the Agua|
|1543||Founding of today’s city of Antigua Guatemala|
|1545||Catedral de Santiago|
|1681||Opening of the Universidad San Carlos de Borromeo|
|1717 and 1773||Destruction by earthquake|
|1944||Classification as a national monument|
|1986/87||Restoration of two preserved chapels in the Catedral de Santiago|
Lovely senoritas and adored caballeros
From here the whole of Central America was once ruled; Spanish governors ruled over an empire that was significantly larger than the mother country. After Columbus discovered America, it was still 35 years before the Spanish conquerors found a city in present-day Guatemala with the dignified name »La Muy Noble y Muy Leal Ciudad de Santiago de los Caballeros« – »The very elegant and very loyal city of Santiago Men of Honor «- founded. Even if it was located in a fertile valley, the place was already in ruins, as this valley was surrounded by three active volcanoes, the Acatenango, Agua and Fuego. In 1541, the still young city was buried for the first time under the lava masses of an erupted volcano. It was rebuilt within two years – albeit in a different location. “La Antigua Goathemala” was the name the Spaniards called their magnificent residence. But the restless earth also destroyed this. After a violent quake – the Saint Martha earthquake of 1773 – the Spanish crown decided to give up the city and to create “Nueva Guatemala”, now Guatemala City, as the new residential city some distance away.
When Antigua was the capital of the Kingdom of Goathemala and could compete in rank with Lima and Mexico City, more than a dozen religious orders settled here, founded monasteries, schools and built numerous churches. The splendid city architecture counted no less than 31 sacred buildings. The flair of an old Spanish colonial city still penetrates every house, every street. As a visitor, you walk across cobblestones through past centuries. No irritating neon advertising disturbs the view. Advertising signs are unusually tiny. It is as if one hears the clatter of the hoofs approaching – a Spanish nobleman on horseback. With a little imagination, one can imagine how young señoritas, sometimes consumed by lovesickness, can see the passing, longingly adored the proud Caballeros. Then as now, the Plaza Mayor, a small park adorned with trees and benches, is the center of Antigua. Today Indian traders offer their goods here, haggling with tourists for finely crafted belts and colorful blankets. The Palacio de los Capitanes Generales from the early 16th century borders directly on this engaging square. Its double row of arcades is unmistakable. From here the Spanish governors directed the fortunes of Central America. Her political sphere of influence extended from southern Mexico to Nicaragua.
It took more than a century to build the cathedral – Catedral de Santiago. Its walls only partially survived the severe earthquake in the 18th century. Another church, the Iglesia de San Francisco from the mid-16th century, shows traces of the troubled earth. All that remains of the original church is a chapel in honor of Hermano Pedro, a monk who founded a hospital for the poor in Antigua. The most impressive building to this day is Nuestra Señora la Merced with a very beautiful baroque facade. Not only ecclesiastical influence, but also secular power can be found in the center of the city: the town hall, the Palacio del Ayuntamiento, rises on the north side of the park. The importance of Antigua in the 16th and 17th centuries can be seen from this alone, that the University of San Carlos de Borromeo was the third oldest in Latin America. La Casa Popenoe from the 17th century, originally the seat of a wealthy Spanish colonial official, provides an insight into Spanish colonial life as it began almost 450 years ago when Antigua was ruled from Central America.