Posted by: ktzefr | April 3, 2015

Celebrating Semana Santa in Guanajuato:Part 1

First stop Guanajuato, Guanajuato (the city and state share a name).  My Moon handbook describes this city perfectly.  “As if plucked from the pages of a fairy tale, Guanajuato is unique and almost mythical in its beauty.”

The city was once the home of the world’s largest and most prolific silver mines, and it was also the site of one of the most important battles in the War of Independence.  Since 1988 the whole city and surrounding mines have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  There’s no place quite like it.

(Note to readers: Sorry, but I have not quite figured out how to add the accents to Spanish words on this blog.)

The Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Guanajuato (center of the pic in bright yellow and red colors) was built in the 1770s.  Inside, the statue of the Virgen de Guanajuato was a gift from King Philip II of Spain in 1557 and is believed to date from the 7th century.  The huge white building in the background is the main building of the Universidad de Guanajuato, which is home to around 30,000 students.  To the right of the university is the Templo de la Compania de Jesus with its collection of oil paintings by the master artist Miguel Cabrera.  (The rooftop garden partially shaded by the tower of the Templo is Alma del Sol, our lovely inn with fabulous views of the city.)

Guanajuato's Centro Historico from the funicular; Photo:KFawcett

Guanajuato’s Centro Historico from the funicular; Photo:KFawcett

Guanajuato is a maze of twisting streets and alleys, an easy place to get lost but a great place to walk.  Cars have their own streets in tunnels below the city.  From the hillside the historic center looks like a “tossed salad” of colorful buildings, and there are many lovely old churches.

Templo de San Diego, Guanajuato, Guanajuato, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Templo de San Diego, Guanajuato, Guanajuato, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

The Templo de San Diego is one of the oldest buildings in the city with a beautiful Rococo facade.

Templo de San Diego, Guanajuato, Guanajuato, Mexico; Photo: KFawcett

Templo de San Diego, Guanajuato, Guanajuato, Mexico; Photo: KFawcett

A block away, the massive doors of the Basilica welcome everyone…

Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Guanajuato; Photo:KFawcett

Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Guanajuato; Photo:KFawcett

Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Guanajuato; Photo:KFawcett

Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Guanajuato; Photo:KFawcett

The Templo de la Compania de Jesus was directly across the narrow, cobblestone street from our casa.  We were awakened by the morning bells…

Templo de la Compania de Jesus, Guanajuato, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Templo de la Compania de Jesus, Guanajuato, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

The most amazing church in Guanajuato sits high on a hillside above town.  The Templo de San Cayetano in Valenciana was built in 1765-1788 by the Spanish co-owner of La Valenciana silver mine, Count Antonio de Obregon, and it is one of the greatest examples of Mexican Baroque architecture in the country.  The hand-carved wooden altars are washed in gold leaf.  Some call it the “gold church that silver built.”

Golden altar of the Templo de San Cayetano in Valenciana, Guanajuato, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Golden altar of the Templo de San Cayetano in Valenciana, Guanajuato, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

On the road again…

This time I did not want to take the usual route across the wide cactus-studded plains of the Bajio, but decided, instead, to travel up and across the Sierra de Santa Rosa.  In the mountains we stopped in the tiny town of Santa Rosa de Lima, which at 8,000 feet is cool and green and dressed in pine trees, to check out the lovely Mayolica pottery made here and amazing homemade jams (more about this in another post; here I’ll stick to the special occasion of Holy Week).

Winding roads and beautiful vistas.  Houses clinging to cliffs.  We arrived in the town of Dolores Hidalgo in time for ice cream on the plaza and a visit to the Parroquia de Nuestra Senora de los Dolores.  It was from the steps of this parish church that Father Miguel Hidalgo raised his famous cry “Viva Mexico!” and the War of Independence began.

Parish Church, Dolores Hidalgo, GTO, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Parish Church, Dolores Hidalgo, GTO, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Inside, in the left transept, the hand-carved altar is washed in gold leaf.  On the right side, however, the altar has been carefully carved in walnut and left unpainted.  It shows the incredible craftmanship behind many of Mexico’s Baroque altarpieces.

Parish Church, Dolores Hidalgo, GTO, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Parish Church, Dolores Hidalgo, GTO, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

By late afternoon we were in Atotonilco.  This shrine, the Santuario de Jesus Nazareno, is one of the finest churches in all of Mexico.  It has been a religious retreat and refuge since the 1700s and has often been referred to as the “Sistine Chapel of Latin America” because of the huge variety of artwork including frescoes on ceilings and walls by the colonial artist Miguel Antonio de Pocasangre.  Atotonilco is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

Santuario de Jesus Nazareno, Atotonilco, GTO; Photo:KFawcett

Santuario de Jesus Nazareno, Atotonilco, GTO; Photo:KFawcett

 

Atotonilco, GTO, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Atotonilco, GTO, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Atotonilco, GTO, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Atotonilco, GTO, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

On the fifth Sunday of Lent (the day we arrived) a massive pilgrimage leaves Atotonilco carrying the sacred figure of the Senor de la Columna, along with La Virgen de Dolores and the Senor de San Juan from this church to San Miguel de Allende.  Pilgrims walk slowly and in silence arriving just before daybreak where families have stayed up all night lining the streets with palm leaves and flowers and balloons.

When the pilgrims arrive in San Miguel de Allende there are fireworks; huge explosions are heard all over town.  We were awakened at 5 am.   And the events of Holy Week in San Miguel began…

(See Part 2 for the beautiful churches and special processions in San Miguel leading up to, and including, Palm Sunday.)

 

 

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Responses

  1. Beautiful.

    • Thanks, Mayla.


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