Idea #697 – Visiting the historic districts of Antigua Guatemala
Antigua is located in the Panchoy Valley, encircled by the volcanoes of Agua, Fuego and Acatenango, in the present-day Sacatepéquez department of central Guatemala. The city was founded by the Spaniards in 1543, under the name of Santiago de los Caballeros of Guatemala, with the aim of becoming the third capital of the Kingdom of Guatemala. The conquistador Bernal Díaz del Castillo, former companion of Hernán Cortés, is for a long time the governor.
Antigua is recognized, developing during the Golden Age, as the third most beautiful city of the Spanish Indies. It once hosted the third university of the continent, the Universidad de San Carlos de Borromeo, founded in 1676. On many occasions, the city is ravaged by earthquakes. After the earthquake of 1773, the Spanish government decided to move the capital to another place. It thus preserves since its aspect of the time. In 1976, a new earthquake unfortunately destroyed several churches.
As for many colonial cities in Latin America, the city’s plan is Hippodamian, consisting of streets that intersect at right angles around a main square. Among the must-see sites are:
The Palace of the Captains-General, built in 1549 – 1558, several times rebuilt, was the seat of the government of all Central America (the kingdom of Guatemala included Chiapas (in the south of Mexico), Guatemala, Belize, the Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica). It is now occupied by the prefecture, the police station and the tourist office. It has an imposing facade with colonnades, largely of origin.
The old St. Joseph’s Cathedral, on the east side of the Place d’Armes, inaugurated in 1680 on the site of a 16th century church after a period of eleven years of construction disrupted by earthquakes. We can admire the Baroque facade. The rest is in ruins.
City Hall, north of Plaza de Armas, one of the few buildings in Antigua that has never collapsed during earthquakes. It houses the Museum of Santiago, which exhibits furniture, weapons and artifacts from the colonial era, and the Old Book Museum.
The church of La Merced, built in the sixteenth century, destroyed and restored. The current Baroque façade dates from the 19th century and has recently been restored. It is characterized by decorative patterns in white stucco on a yellow background. In the ruins of the monastery is a large fountain, with a basin 27 meters in diameter.
Las Capuchinas, or Capuchin convent founded by Madrilenian nuns, completed in 1736 under the direction of Diego de Porres, the chief architect of the city. The monastic cells are arranged around a circular patio.
The city has been listed since 1979 on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Where is it ?
Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala