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In Guate City


Antigua Guatemala is a colonial jewel located in the highlands, the city overlooks the monumental Volcan de Agua (water volcano)

DO YOU KNOW the "LA ANTIGUA"  Real Name?

This beautiful Colonial City, founded on march 10th of 1543, is located in the picturesque valley of "PANCHOY"  and was originally named "LA MUY NOBLE Y MUY LEAL CIUDAD DE SANTIAGO DE LOS CABALLEROS DE GOATHEMALA"  (The very Noble and Very Loyal City of St. James of the Knights of Goathemala).

Most of visitors agree with Antigua has been suspended in the time, keeping  as a treasure, an extraordinary architectural and historical heritage, that must be known around the world.

In order to help our visitors, to enjoy the most amazing experience visiting the different colonial monuments, markets and interesting places, we suggest you the following self-guide-walking-tour.

 THE CENTRAL PLAZA

This is the heart of the city. In the traditional grid layout used so often in the Spanish urban development of the colonial era was the starting point in 1543 to lay out the city and it is attributed to Juan Bautista Antonelli.

  From the Major Plaza (Plaza Mayor) :

TOWARD THE NORTH:     (AL NORTE)

We suggest you to visit the beautiful ""PALACIO DEL AYUNTAMIENTO"" today the City Hall.  It is a two-level- stone-carved building and its facade is decorated with 24 arches. The City Hall of Antigua hosts the Mayor's office, Banks, restaurants and the Museum of St. James (Museo de Santiago) where you can see the antique weapons used by Spaniards and indigenous during the conquest epoch. In addition,  you can admire a big painting of Don Pedro de Alvarado, painted by the recognized Guatemalan artist ""Garavito"",  and also you will see the conqueror's sword which was restored in Spain. "Just on the right side of this building you can find the antique book museum (museo del libro antiguo) where the first printing press replica is shown, which was operated for the first time in the year of 1660.  This printing press was brought from Mexico by Fray Payo Enriquez de Rivera. You can se some printing works, made in this printing press in its epoch."

 

TOWARD THE WEST/(AL PONIENTE)

 

You can walk along the ""PORTAL DE LOS MERCADERES"", and you should taste the

authentic Antigua's Coffee, in the historical ""CASA DEL CONDE DE LA GOMERA"".

 

TOWARD THE SOUTH/(AL SUR)

 

You will find the Captain-General's  Palace ( Palacio de los Capitanes Generales) which with its gigantic dimensions and its massive construction  of solid stone columns, is one of the most magnificent buildings of this romantic Colonial City.

 

This building hosted very important offices in the past, such as The Court of Justice, Treasury, The Royal Seal Room , Notary Public Office, and of course the Captain's General Office. There was a place for a prison, a chapel and a very large patios. This building was attached to the residence and palace of the Captain- General. Its construction starts in 1558 and it was a two-level-wooden- building.

 

The palace suffered the damages caused by the earthquakes, so several reconstructions were needed.   Now it is a two-level-building with 27 arcades in each story, constructed by Luis Diez de Navarro.

 

Recently, reconstruction works began, as a part of a project to  convert this place to a museum.

 

TOWARD THE EAST/(AL ORIENTE)

 

You can admire the San Jose's cathedral Church which has the rank of Metropolitan since the colonial epoch. Its construction started en 1542 and its appearance was very simple, but in

1680 this church became extraordinarily big, under the mastership of Joseph de Porres. It was initially designed and divided into 5 naves and 68 smaller chambers, 16 chapels including the Royal Chapel and 73 windows illuminated its interior and the access was possible through 6 gates. In the backside there is a very big belfry and therefore the 3th avenue was

named ""THE STREET OF THE BELLS"" (Calle de las Campanas).

 

According to some authors, in this chambers and crypts rest the remains of Don Pedro de Alvarado, Do-a Leonor de Alvarado, Don Pedro de Portocarrero, Don Bernal Diaz del Castillo and the Bishop Francisco Marroquin.

 

The facade shows today the sculptures of Sr. James, The Virgin Mary, the Eternal Father, the twelve Apostles and a Priest.

 

COLONIAL ART MUSEUM   (MUSEO DE ARTE COLONIAL)

This important museum is located in the building which housed the San Carlos University during the colonial epoch.

 

Visiting this museum represents a pleasure, admiring very famous paintings of artists such as Tom‡s de Merlo, Miguel Cabrera, Juan Correa and Cristobal de Villalpando, and sculptures of the imaginary of the epoch, most of them from anonymous sculptors. In its Class rooms you can appreciate how the Graduating Test was performed by students. Walking along its corridors admiring its impressive architecture, is also an unforgettable experience.

 

CONVENT AND CHURCH OF SANTA CLARA:

It was founded 1699 by a group of nuns from Puebla, Mexico who were known as ""MONJAS CLARISAS"". Then, after suffering badly damages due to the earthquakes of 1717, the reconstruction was started and it was finished in 1734 taking the present appearance.

Now this monument offers the visitors two interesting facts: Its beautiful central patio and garden and the experience of visiting the  echo-chamber where the sacristy was located.

 

CONVENT AND CHURCH OF SAN FRANCISCO EL GRANDE:

One of the first Religious Congregations established in Guatemala was the ""Franciscana"" they came here in 1527-1530. Possibly due to this, they were the first Religious Order in constructing

temples and convents in this country. The first construction of their church was in 1579, and at the same time they built their convent which housed the ""COLEGIO DE SAN BUENAVENTURA"" . for a long time.

 

Its facade is decorated in a Barroco Style and presents 16 niches in some of which the stucco images of San Francisco,  The Virgin Mary , Santa Clara, St.James and the Beato Hermano Pedro de San Jose de Betancourt, still remain. The Hermano Pedro died on April 25th of 1667 and his tomb is today visited by tourists and pilgrims from the entire country and abroad.

 

Believers assure that Hermano Pedro acquired miraculous attributes after his death and therefore the church of San Francisco is  a place of pilgrimage and gratitude, so, visiting this church is practically obligated when you come to La Antigua. In the sacristy the MUSEO DEL HERMANO PEDRO  is  located and it shows his wardrobe,  his bell, his habit and his blankets, in almost perfect conditions.

 

POPENOE HOUSE:

This is a colonial house of the 17th century. Today is considered as  a museum which offers the visitors the opportunity to imagine how the Spaniard used to live in those days. Its decoration and furniture and its attractive architecture are the most interesting elements of this beautiful building.

Wide corridors, gargoyles, patios and fountains can be admired in its interior. There is a large collection of paintings of Pedro de Alvarado, Hermano Pedro de Betancourt and the Bishop Francisco Marroquin and of course a beautiful sculpture of St. James the Apostle ( Apostol Santiago) Patron Saint of La Antigua. This house can be visited only in the afternoons from 2.00 P.M.. to 4.00 P.M. everyday except on Sundays.

 

CHURCH AND CONVENT OF SANTO DOMINGO:

It was considered one of the most beautiful and monumental complex, that ever existed, and also the order that had more financial resources than any other in its epoch. Its construction was started in 1542 and its church, of very special characteristics, shows a beautiful facade in which two enormous  towers were constructed. In one of them, the biggest clock brought to Guatemala from Europe in 1543, was installed. The church and the convent, hosted an immense treasure of colonial art of remarkable artist such as Martin de Ugaldo, Alonzo de la Paz and Pedro de Liendo.

Its configuration includes Dorms, meeting Rooms, and patios and gardens decorated with fountains. Historical references let us to know that , in the convent was a big pool where

the monks usually spent time, rowing and fishing. Dominicans were promoters of the University's foundation in our country and they ceded the land where later, the Santo Tomas de Aquino College was constructed.

 

CONVENT OF NUESTRA SEÑORA DEL PILAR DE ZARAGOZA (CAPUCHINAS):

It was the 5th and the last convent of Nuns, founded in the city, which belonged to the Madrid's Nuns. Its architecture is a part of the stone-carved-buildings of the city, and it was built in 1736 under the direction of Don Diego de Porres, Major-Architect of the city. Its solid construction is similar to the Castilla's fortress. Its swears and drains system shows the ingenuity of its design.

 

One of its most important attractive is the impressive ""TORRE DEL RETIRO" a retreatment and penitence tower which was built in a circular form and counts with 18 cells and dorms where the Nuns usually did penitence activities.

 

CONVENT AND CHURCH OF LA MERCED:

It was built in 1548 and also suffered the damages of the earthquakes, and this situation concerned to LOS PADRES MERCEDARIOS whose previewing more earthquakes in the future, decided to rebuild the first construction in order to make it stronger and solid, responsibility assumed by Architect Juan de Dios Estrada, who designed and directed the construction works and finished it in 1767. Its thick walls, and  its short chambers, saved the building from the fury of

the earthquakes of Santa Marta in 1773. The exquisite baroque-styled-facade shows an extraordinary stuccoes finishing which was made using the recognized ""ATAURIQUE-TECHNIC"".

 

On this facade one can appreciate very important sculptures such as Our Lady of Las Mercedes and San Pedro Nolasco. In its interior you will see one of the most beautiful fountains of the city,

designed in an octagonal form and with four bridges from the edge to the center, and the base or bowl decorated with the same technique.

 

HERMIT OF SAN JERONIMO:

Hermit and college of the MERCEDARIAS order was built with no authorization of the Crown and due to this, its demolition was ordered, however this order was disobeyed. Its construction was finished in 1759 and in 1765 authorities from Spain determined to install in this building the ROYAL CUSTOM OFFICE, and a150 men-detachment was sent to the place. Inside of this building you can see the beautiful fountain in the center of the patio, in the same place where one day, the kitchen and a Chapel were situated.

 

CONVENT OF LA RECOLECCION:

This beautiful building housed the order of the Fathers Recoletos. Its construction started in 1701 and was finished in 1715, under the direction of the architects Jose and Diego de Porres.

The building includes study rooms, music rooms, cells, cloisters and infirmary.

This architectural complex shows vestiges of the LA CASA DE LOS RECOLECTOS,  which in words of historians , it was a Hospital. In addition to the damages suffered by the earthquakes of the epoch, its beautiful arch shook down during the earthquake of 1976.

 

K'JOM HOUSE OR TRADITIONAL MAYAN MUSIC MUSEUM:

This odd museum offer you a little sample of Musical Instruments of the Pre-Colonial epoch.  Some of them were introduced  by Spaniard to this country. The most important Musical Instruments are: TUN (Drum), CONCHAS DE TORTUGA (Turtle Shell), ARPA (Harp), CHIRIMIA (Flute) VIOLIN AND THE MARIMBA (Wooden-Keyboard). In this place you will have the opportunity to  watch a video tape about the evolution of the ""MARIMBA"", and also, you will see the COFRADIA, decorated as the original ones.

 

CENTRAL MARKETPLACE:

Considered the most important traditional marketplace in the country. This market is open everyday, however the most intensive activity take place on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

We suggest you to visit this place  in the mornings. This market close its doors at 4:00 P.M..

You can buy fresh vegetables and fruits,  pride of the region for its high quality and  you can  also admire the colorful of the typical costumes worn by the native women, which represent the surrounding towns.  A big selection of hand-crafts, typical of this region, is available too.

 

HAND-CRAFTS  MARKET:

This very interesting marketplaces, exhibits crafts made by authentic Antigua's people.  You can buy: Ceramics, jade, silver, wood, brass, leather, jaspe paper and marble. The building, houses the market, two patios, wide corridors and more or less a hundred of small locales.

 

HOUSE OF THE ANTIQUE COSTUME /(CASA DEL TRAJE ANTIGUO):

"This house was founded by its owner Doña Alida Perez, and offers the visitors a very big selection of typical costumes from different regions of the country. You can take a walking-tour led by a guide who have a very deep acknowledgment in textiles and provide a very important information about the meaning of its decoration and about the area where the textile comes from.

 

CHURCH AND CONVENT OF ""LA COMPAÑIA DE JESUS"":

Its construction started on July 18th of 1626, and was finished until the convent was built..

This monumental building is located where the Bernal Diaz del Castillo's house was situated, but the earthquakes registered in Valle de Panchoy caused damages to the structure, so its reconstruction in 1755 was necessary. This monument was a two-level building which was the convent, and then , the church, the cloister and gardens completed the complex. Recently the CENTRO IBEROAMERICANO DE FORMACION, accomplished reconstruction-works in this historical monument. This place is always open and you can visit it with no fees.

 

 

OTHER INTERESTING PLACES

 

TRIDENTATE SCHOOL

The School was constructed around 1758. The organization that occupied the building was in charge of giving religious education. The main entrance is a portico with four composite ribbed columns and a very elaborate entablature with a vaulted niche with the image of the virgin Mary. 

The cloister is formed of mix linear arches crowned with Marian coats-of-arms. There is a small chapel with its sacristy in the center of the complex.

 

ROYAL PONTIFICAL UNIVERSITY OF SAN CARLOS DE GUATEMALA COLONIAL ART MUSEUM

 

The San Carlos University was founded on the Royal Orders by King Charles II on January 31, 1676 as a result of the efforts by Bishop Francisco Marroquin and became the third oldest University in America. The building was constructed en 1763, apparently under the direction of Bernardo Ramirez. The University was in operation ins this building until 1776 when the capital

moved to the Valley of the Hermitage (also called of the Virgin). 

This beautiful place can be visited on Tuesday to Friday from 9.00 am to 4.00 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 9.00 am to 12.00 n. and from 2.00 to 4.00 pm. And the entrance fee is Q 10.00.

CHURCH, CONVENT AND ARCH OF SANTA CATALINA This church and convent was a reclusion for nuns. The religious organization was established en 1609. The church opened on September 15, 1647. The arch or bridge over the street, that was used to communicate the convent with the orchard and the gardens, was completed en 1694.

 

LA UNION TANK

This is a tank for public use. It was inaugurated in 1853 in the called Plaza de San Pedro. Today is identified with the same name of the park where it is located.

 

 

TRADITIONAL VISIT TO SURROUNDING TOWNS NEAR TO ANTIGUA.

 

JOCOTENANGO

Jocotenango is two kilometers away from the main plaza. It was founded in 1541 by indigenous people who came from Santiago in Almolonga after the city was destroyed by the flood. The main occupation of its inhabitants is masonry pig breeding. The façade of the church is decorated with Salomonic pilasters on the first body and padded pilasters on the second and third bodies.

 

These were added when the church was reconstructed after the 1717 earthquake. On the North side of the church is the Virgin's Chapels covered by vaults with lanterns at the end.

 

CIUDAD VIEJA:

"A very important town located in VALLE DE ALMOLONGA in the slopes of VOLCAN DE AGUA,  it was the 2nd site where the CAPITAL DEL REYNO was situated. (1527-1541)

Destroyed almost totally by the floods it is today a very interesting place to be visited, specially for its Colonial Church with barroco style facade, and its vestiges of the palace of Doña Beatriz de la Cueva (La Sinventura). This town is 4 kms. from La Antigua."

 

SAN ANTONIO AGUAS CALIENTES:

"KAQCHIKEL town with primitive strokes, located 8 kms from La Antigua, and producer of excellent typical textiles which has been recognized around the world." You can enjoy the trip across coffee plantations and visiting its old church and the Hand-crafts market place.

 

SAN CRISTOBAL EL BAJO

This town is south of Antigua on the road that leads to San Juan El Obispo. The hermitage was constructed before 1625 and reconstructed twice after the earthquakes of 1717 and 1976.

Its façade is of the altar-piece type and is formed by two bodies with crowning on the façade.

There are vaulted niches with images in each body.A very special detail is on the octagonal window at the center  of the second body, where there is an image of St. Christopher in another vaulted niche. The church has only one nave which is covered by wood and roof tile, with

exception of the presbytery that is covered by a dome. An outstanding piece of imagery is the Nazareth of the XVII century.

 

SAN JUAN DEL OBISPO:

"A Small town located in the slopes of Volcan de Agua , 5kms  from La Antigua."

Its Historical worth is represented by two very important monuments: Its church

which houses the most beautiful barroco style samples and its impressive facade.

"In the other hand the monumental Palace constructed by the Bishop Francisco

MarroquÍn, where this celebrity spent his last days. The church and the palace were built in 1547. Today the palace is under the supervision of the HERMANAS CARMELITAS. From this place you will have a beautiful view, specially in sunny days, because the landscape shows Antigua and the entire Panchoy's Valley.

 

SANTA MARIA DE JESUS

This town is on the foot of the Agua Volcano, ten minutes awai from San Juan del Obispo and the ascent to the summit of the volcano begins here. It was founded at the end of the XVI century and its first inhabitants possibly came from Quetzaltenango. They supplied the inhabitants of Antigua with firewood and ice. The ice was obtained from the summit of the volcano. The most important festivities are celebrated on January 2 (the Sweet Name) and in June (corpus Christi).

 

SAN FELIPE DE JESUS:

This small town is located 2 kms from La Antigua and represents a pilgrimage place all year long, but specially in the first Friday of Easter and during the Holy-Week. Its church of Gothic style is unique in the region and its Christ image was carved by the recognized sculptor Quirio Cataño.

 

 

 

HANDCRAFTS

 

CERAMIC

The ceramic work from Antigua is of Spanish origin. Two types of ceramic are made here: Glazed ceramic (majolica) that dates  back to the XVI century. Different pieces for home use and for decoration, like tiles, are made in this style. This type of ceramic is done only in the shop of the Montiel family. The second type is painting ceramic that includes : owls, fruits, vegetables, piggy banks, Nativity scenes, butterflies and birds.

 

IRONWORKS:

this technique was brought by the Spaniards and has preserved the shapes that identify the Colonial style. This art of Ironwork is used to make decorations and even furniture.

 

CARPENTRY

 

There is a large number of carpenters that manufacture furniture in a unique colonial style. Excellent wood carvers are found in ciudad Vieja.

 

PYROGRAPHY:

Many ornamental objects are made with this technique which consists of engraving with fire over wood.

 

CANDLE FACTORIES:

Candles are in huge demand by church-goers because or religious traditions that are deeply rooted in the people. Candles of up to five pounds are made that are used by the brotherhoods.

Beautiful candles decorated with crowns or wax flowers (called palmatorias), colored decorative candles and small candles used in homes are made. Votive offerings are also made to give thanks. They are made in the shape of the miracle that was granted: a heart, an arm, a leg etc.

 

CANDY

 

The famous candy from Antigua are made from natural fruits and wonderful mixtures of mil, eggs and other ingredients. This candy is sold in the market at San Felipe and candy stores everywhere en Antigua the most famous and old is the "Doña Maria Gordillo" Tienda.

 

TEXTILES

The traditional textiles are made by the women in waist looms or stick looms with a complicated procedure of weaving and wrapping. The best place to see this done is San Antonio Aguas Calientes, a weaver's center, where you may acquire a wide range of textiles.Easter Week is a time of many traditions and religious fervor when the Passion of Christ is commemorated with rituals that take place during Lent and end during the Holy Week with processions and vigils.

 

EASTER WEEK

 

The Via Crucis is prayed every Lent Friday. It goes though the Chapels of the Steps from the church of San Francisco to the Calvary. This tradition was initiated in Antigua Guatemala by Brother Pedro de San José de Bethancourt in the XVII century. Every Sunday there is a procession of the Nazareth. It is from a different village each time and it passes through the main streets of the city during several hours. Holy Week starts on Sunday (Domingo de Ramos) with great splendor. Thursday and Friday are days of great devotion with the processions of Holy Burial and the commemoration ends on Easter Sunday with the celebration of the Resurrection.

The Citizens and the Brotherhoods prepare beautiful carpets made with dyed sawdust, flowers, scraps of paper and many more materials for which they use the imagination at their best.

 

The vigils take place during the course of Lent in the churches of the city and of the villages. Vegetable gardens are simulated inside the churches with a large variety of fruits, flowers and birds that give the festivities a unique touch. During de course of this religious cycle, the penitents who are called "cucuruchos" dress in purple tunics and in black tunics, on holy Friday. They carry various processions with the images of the Nazareth and of Christ in the Sepulcher.  The images of the Virgin Mary, San Juan and Maria Magdalena are also carried in processions. Part of the procession is a band of musicians that play funerary marches. Considering Antigua is clearly a tourist town where there are lots of things to be seen, it is worthwhile to take strolls and stop at those places that may call your attention. Therefore you can go on tours that range from handcrafts to architecture, statues, jade factories, etc. Visiting Antigua on a single day will hardly please you.

 

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