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In March, 1543, the city of Santiago de los Caballeros (St. James of the Knights), today Antigua Guatemala, was founded at the foot of Agua Volcano. King Phillip II conferred on it the title of Most Noble and Most Loyal in 1566, and since then art and culture irradiated from the city to all the Americas, especially in its golden age from 1720 to 1773, when it was finally destroyed by a violent earthquake.

A romantic walk allows the visitor to see the beauty of Antigua, planned by the Italian architect Juan Francisco Antonelli in 1542. It was the first planned city in the New World. Outstanding architects, among them Diego de Porres, developed a creative spirit in buildings and public works, such as the Fountain of the Sirens in the Royal Plaza. Colonial sculpture, of religious nature, was developed in such a manner that the Antigua school notably influenced those of Mexico and Quito, Where numerous pieces carved in Guatemala are still preserved.

Although time has not been merciful to Antigua, the city conserves all its colonial charm. Public buildings, churches, convents and old residences are examples of the baroque architecture and the prosperity of yesteryear of this ancient capital, declared a Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

On the south side of the Great Plaza stands the Royal Palace of the Captains General, on whose fa�ade the coat of arms of the House of Bourbon, with the name of Charles III, is carved in stone. Renovated successively in the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries, this building was the offices of the Colonial Government and the residence of the Captain General. Across the plaza, to the north, is the Municipal Palace, with double arcades, where the Meeting Hall, the courts, a prison and the police were housed. Today, part of this building has become a municipal museum displaying collections of ancient weapons and paintigs of the 17th and 18th Centuries. The Cathedral, located east of the plaza, was inaugurated in 1680, but only the fa�ade remains, as it was repeatedly destroyed by earthquakes.
On one side of the Cathedral is the building of the Royal and Pontifical University of San Carlos de Borromeo, founded in 1775. Its lecture rooms are built around a large patio, surrounded by arcades of Mudejar influence and they contain the collection of the Museum of Colonial Art.
Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala came to have 38 sumptuous temples and convents, 15 oratories and several hermitages. Among these buildings, the visitor can appreciate the convent and church of Santa Clara, with one of the most beautiful baroque facades. The Church of La Merced, founded in 1767, is also distinguished by its richly decorated fa�ade, where can be seen the image of Our Lady of Mercy, then the patron saint of the city. The Convent of Our Lady of Pilar of Zaragoza, founded by royal warrant in 1775, is one of the masterpieces of Antigua architecture, built by Diego de Porres. Other outstanding religious buildings in Antigua are the Compa�ia de Jes�s, the Recolecci�n, the Church of St. Francis the Elder, and theHermitage of the Holy Cross.
Colonial Museum; Located in the building which once sheltered the third university founded on the American continent, the Colonial Museum of Antigua is a treasure trove of religious images and paintings. In some of the old lecture rooms, scenes of university life in the 18th Century have been recreated. The patio is one of the most beautiful examples of Colonial architecture.

 

Handicraft; Antigua is one of the principal ceramic producing centers in Guatemala. The technique was inherited from Spain in the 16 th Century. Notable families such as the Montiels and the Rodenas have kept the traditional alive in Antigua, both in majolica and painted ceramics. The manufacture of fruit carved in wood, wax products and traditional candies are other artisan activities that have made this colonial city famous.
Fiestas; The colonial environment serves as the background for the celebration of Easter Week in Antigua Guatemala, when monumental processions go through the streets of the city carrying the image of Jesus of Nazareth bearing His cross. Each day that week, bearers, known as cucuruchos, carry a different procession on their shoulders over now famous carpets made of rose petals and dyed sawdust which the residents have prepared the day before. This celebration came from Spain in the 16th Century, but it has taken on characteristics peculiar to Antigua with the passage of time. One such is the participation of women, who carry the Virgen Dolorosa.

Nowadays, Easter Week in Antigua is considered the most important celebration of the Passion of Christ in the hemisphere.