La Merced

Beez Neez now Chy Whella
Big Bear and Pepe Millard
Sun 29 Jul 2012 22:57
La Merced






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 History: In 1538, the Mercedarian order was established in Guatemala, they had built a church in Antigua by 1546 which was destroyed by earthquakes in 1565. This church was rebuilt, only to be ruined again in the earthquakes of 1717. The present church of La Merced was finished in 1767, just six years before the Santa Marta quakes that led to the abandonment of Antigua as the capital.



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Description: The facade in baroque style is flanked by two bell towers of low height. On top looms the effigy of San Pedro Nolasco who founded the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy in the thirteenth century. He is flanked by two Mercedaries and the crest of the order. The effigy of Our Lady of Mercedes is situated in the central niche of the facade. She is flanked to the left by the effigies of San Raymundo Nonnatus and San Pedro Arinengol (with rope indicating his martyrdom being hanged) and to the right side by the Mercedary bishop San Pedro Pascual as well as the first Mercedary nun, Santa Maria de Cervellón. 


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The delicate “autaurique” work (a relief technique involving detailed vegetable motifs in chalk), is an example of the architectural quality achieved in this city.


The façade is one of the most beautiful in Antigua, featuring intricate and ornate patterns in white stucco on a yellow background. The church is also a good example of the "earthquake baroque" architectural style, made popular by necessity in Central America. Short, squat bell towers, in contrast to the soaring towers of the churches built in the seismically less active Mexico during the same era. Although somewhat damaged in 1773, the church was repaired and remains in service today, but the original gilded altars and other fine furnishings were removed to the new Mercedarian church in Guatemala City when the order moved to the new capital.  



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The cross and font


 The stone cross in the atrium (and the rooms behind the main altar) are the oldest structures in La Merced and date from the seventeenth century. The font is very old but no detailed information is available.



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In 1749 Juan de Dios Estrada was commissioned to construct the luxurious sanctuary and cloister. He erected a building of low height designed to withstand earthquakes based on the experiences of the tremor of 1751.



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The effigy of Jesus Christ holding the cross was carved in 1650 by Alonzo de la Paz y Toledo.





La Merced is the start and end point of the famous Good Friday procession in Antigua. The procession involves a cast of many thousands, including Roman centurions and cavalry, self-flagellating penitents, Pontius Pilate, the two thieves, statues of saints and of Christ in various stages along the Via Dolorosa. High Catholic officials with attendants swinging censers, brass bands playing unimaginably dolorous funereal marches, and, of course, statues of the Virgin Mary (borne by women). The event needs eight hours to pass through the streets, which are emblazoned with alfrombas (carpets) of pine needles, flowers and brightly dyed sawdust laid in designs. The climax is when the gigantic, multi-ton float of Christ carrying the cross, lumbers - swaying from side to side as eighty bearers step in unison, giving the  illusion that the statue is actually walking. This great pageant winds its way back to La Merced when  Christ is turned and backed into the church to repose until the following year's Holy Week.  This image of  Christ is considered one of the most beautiful in the country and attracts a large numbers of churchgoers every year.


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The interior


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The Lady Altar


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Some of the statues and a painting of St Jude


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Fairly solid doors


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 Today La Merced is popular a among tourists and locals alike. The small park on the south side of the of the church was our preferred ice cream enjoyment spot, many locals enjoy the afternoon sun too.



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