First Sunday of Lent in Antigua starts with a procession
Woke up to loud booming in the night. First thought earthquake after seeing all the earthquake damaged buildings yesterday but the building wasn’t shaking. Then thought volcano after hearing the volcano was spewing lava last week but figured there’d be a siren, then realized it was probably thunder.
This morning we headed out to wander about the town. Headed down the street to the square. The clouds had cleared and we could see the enormous presence of the volcano to the west of the city. The jacaranda trees in the square are in full purple bloom and added a lovely touch to the scene. We carried on down the street to a large market that seemed to go on and on. One side was a tourist market with an amazing amount of pretty much the same stuff over and over. The other side was the local market that sold clothes, food, building supplies and on and on. There were big piles of pineapples, watermelon, cantaloupe, even strawberries, pears and fruits I didn’t recognize. Women were making blue corn tortillas over open fires. Fred checked out the selection of counterfeit Guatemalan rock.
Throughout its history Antigua (La Antigua), was repeatedly damaged by earthquakes, and always the Antigueños rebuilt, bigger and better. But on July 29, 1773, the day of Santa Marta, earthquakes wrought such destruction that officials petitioned the King of Spain to allow them to move the capital to safer ground, which led to the founding in 1776 of present-day Guatemala City.
Antigua's Catedral de Santiago was begun in 1545, wrecked by the quake of 1773, and only partially rebuilt over the next century. The present sliver of a church – the parish of San José – occupies only the entrance hall of the original edifice. Behind this structure are the roofless ruins of the main part of the cathedral which, for a small fee, can be explored.
It's a haunting place, with massive chunks of pillars strewn beneath sweeping brick archways and vegetation sprouting from wall cracks. Reproductions of the intricate plasterwork figures and mouldings between the arches seem all that more impressive against the ruined backdrop. Behind the main altar, steps lead down to a former crypt now serving as a chapel, with a smoke-blackened Christ.
First Sunday of Lent in Antigua starts with a procession. The locals dress the calles with lines of flowers: Snap Dragons, Baby’s Breath and rose petals, on beds of pine needles. This floral carpet was repeated over and over by the barrio faithful throughout the town as the procession wound its way through the streets and over to the Calvario Church.
There were: the waves of men robed in purple, the colour representing the suffering of Christ and his royal place in the kingdom of heaven; the Roman soldiers with their lances and helmets done up with real broom ends; the Israelites; and the priests guiding the proceedings and who, for some reason, were wearing surgical gloves, a modern improvisation. Finally came the floats, all of them heavy and meant to be a welcome burden to the people who carried them.