The Convent of the Capuchinas
Todays school visit was to the ruins of the Church and Convent of the Capuchinas, a closed order that originally came here from Madrid, who ran a women’s hospital and an orphange. It is one of the finest examples of an 18th century convent in Guatemala, consecrated in 1736, but like the rest of the city suffered damage during the 1751 and 1773 earthquakes respectively. Thanks to meticulous renovations in recent decades, it is possible to get a feel of the life and times of the nuns who lived here. We paid our forty Quetzales or three pounds twenty entry fee and walked into the massive courtyard surrounded by stout pillars. All four sides of course held ample opportunity for local stallholders to sell their wares, including some very tacky chocolate Virgin Mary’s on lolly sticks. We sampled a tiny bit of local ‘hooch’ that was rather good and tasted of apple juice – at fifteen per cent I could easily order it out if I see it. The convent is today home to the Preservation Commission of Antigua.
We wandered around the well tended gardens
We stood in awe at the ‘water punishment’.
So many of these hideous spaces met us as soon as we cleared one of the many passageways. Each was designed to drip water on the ‘sinners’ head for any length of time that Mother Superior deigned as suitable for the slightest infraction. Talking, impure thoughts, pregnancy (not all visits from the local priests were holy, evidence was found in the form of hidden ‘bundles’ buried in the grounds) and countless other errors against this strict community. Head lice and maggots would appear as infections were common after the treatment.
The unusual, tower-like eighteen cell structure built around a circular patio.
Bear posed, I of course was asked to try out the facilities
The restored wash basins.
Bear of course made an inappropriate comment about nuns transport being somewhat trendy, but I did wonder if this ramp had been used for skateboarding. We visited the crypt where there was a tableau of a laying-in of a departed member.
The enormous church seen from the large choir loft
Upstairs we wandered around the well appointed museum, paid for in part by a grant from Taiwan. We read that during the 18th century, the city reached its major architectural and artistic brilliance as well as its partial destruction. The convent was founded as a result of a decree form Philip V. It was founded by five founding nuns from the Convent of Our Lady of the Pillar of Zaragoza – known as the Capuchinas. Designed in 1731 by Diego de Porres – a famous local architect – it was the last religious building founded in the city. The earthquake of 1773 saw the building remain intact but the nuns were relocated by royal order. They took with them the altarpieces, doors, appliances and other goods – some of them are still in the Capuchinas convent in Guatemala City. The abandoned building was sold in 1814, the second floor by then had collapsed forming areas used for drying coffee.
The views - through bars of course
ALL IN ALL CONVENTS EVOKE MEMORIES – NOT ALL GOOD
MASSIVE BUT ABANDONED SO QUICKLY