Recently I traveled to Antigua, Guatemala, for the first time. Although I want to travel all around the world, Guatemala was never on my radar. But it was a “God thing.” I’m writing a Guatemala blog series to show you the beautiful pictures and to share about the amazing things God did there. This is Blog #3, Antigua’s beautiful ancient cathedrals. You can read my other blogs about Guatemala at the links below:
My trip to Antigua, Guatemala https://www.bethjones.net/my-trip-to-antigua-guatemala/
Travel requirements, the Guatemala grocery stores, and the street markets https://www.bethjones.net/travel-requirements-travel-requirements-grocery-stores-street-markets/
Traveling is both exciting and can be scary. But this was not my first rodeo traveling abroad. I’ve been to other nations, such as Switzerland, France, Israel, the Bahamas, Canada, Kenya, and Ireland. Before traveling to Guatemala, I watched a lot of videos on YouTube about Antigua and Guatemala to prepare for it and plan to make the best use of my short (one week!) time there.
So I typed a tentative itinerary of what I planned to do and where to go while there, and emailed it to my Spanish instructor, Elvia Reyes, who was showing me around the first couple of days, and to my friend Kim Rogers, who lives there. Both are very knowledgeable about Antigua and gave me great tips and advice before I arrived.
But when I got there, all my plans went out the window! Almost NOTHING happened according to my itinerary. Kim laughed about this and said, “Welcome to life in Guatemala!” I hired Elvia’s driver Allan to take me around Antigua (instead of using a Tuk Tuk, a chicken bus, or an Uber). He and Elvia were so good to me, BUT…what about my itinerary?!!!
Because I was depending on someone else to drive me around, I needed to go by someone else’s schedule, not mine! I knew that the schedule would change when I got there, but didn’t know it would change that much!
This included when I would wake up every day. After Kim arrived there (the day after me), she would text me on What’s App at 6:30 a.m. Are you kidding me? I am SO not a morning person! But because this was KIM, I went with it! I was just excited to actually meet her in person (and her boyfriend Stan, their friends, and Elvia, and Allan) and get to know them.
I prayed before the trip, asking God to order my steps each day, and boy, He did. This trip was all about FLEXIBLITY!
Kim was so amused and laughed when I told her about Elvia messaging me on What’s App, saying that we were going to visit the churches on the 2nd day of my visit, and I thought, “But that’s on Thursday, NOT today!” (Tuesday) My sister Maria thought this was hilarious. In Guatemala, I learned all about NOT being so rigid. (Can we say, “Recovering control freak?”). Yet another lesson in, “Letting go and letting God!”
On Tuesday morning after our driver Allan drove us to the grocery store (La Torre) and to the street market in Elvia’s town,Jocotenango (which you can see pics of on this blog here), we visited the beautiful, ancient cathedrals and the church ruins in Antigua.
There are so many of them. I’m glad that I got to see the ones that we did, and Kim took me to see more when I stayed two extra days. I’d like to visit more when I return to Antigua. Elvia took that Tuesday morning off work from teaching Spanish to go with me and to tour the cathedrals.
In Guatemala due to the Coronavirus, you have to wear a mask everywhere you go, including restaurants, grocery stores, the street market, and outside.
The cathedrals and the ruins were breathtakingly beautiful and are massive. Their architecture astonishes me, just like the ones in Europe do. I wish that I’d had longer to spend time in them and to learn more about them. I hope that I’m getting the names of these churches right; if not, Elvia or Kim can let me know!
I believe this is the cathedral, Nuestra Senora de la Merced Convent-Church, built in 1535. If this is la Merced, it is the church where God spoke to Kim’s heart one day to move to Guatemala. That day the church was closed to tourists, but a few days later it was open and Kim and I went inside. You can google the history of these churches. They are so beautiful, inside and out. I love the yellow color.
Next we visited Iglesia de San Francisco, built in 1702 . Franciscan monks from Spain arrived to Guatemala and constructed a chapel which was later damaged and collections were made to build a new sanctuary. Parts of this construction can be appreciated at one side of the current sanctuary.
It is one of the most one of the most frequented sanctuaries by the locals because of the shrine of Peter of Saint Joseph Betancur (Santo Hermano Pedro). His tomb is visited by pilgrims each year who beg for favors and miracles.
Earthquakes in 1702 and 1751 damaged the structure severely, and the site was partially destroyed in 1773, with parts being reconstructed but some still in ruin.
Elvia and I were able to go inside and look around, although people were in there to pray and worship so we had to be quiet. I was not entirely sure if I was supposed to take pictures or not inside the church. If not, I might get in trouble for this blog!
The altar is decorated with paintings and sculptures of famous contemporary artists, each one unique. We found the shrine and the casket of Santo Hermano Pedro (with his clothes and even his underwear!) and the various sculptures of Jesus in a different room. I laughed at the underwear part.
But it is always a sobering reminder of your own mortality when looking at a casket. Are you and I living a life totally devoted to God and helping others as much as we can?
Elvia and I next visited a beautiful outside garden. I’m not sure if this was part of Iglesia de San Francisco or not, but it was part of a monastery. Before we entered, we saw a cross near an arch, and it arrested me.
Because of the spring-like weather almost year-round and due to so much rain in Guatemala, the trees and grass are always green and flowers bloom perpetually. They are so beautiful and unique. This garden where Elvia and I walked was so serene.
The grounds still have a huge kitchen, partly intact. The monks used firewood to cook the meals. Large windows allow venting for the fire’s smoke.
There was one place near the kitchen, which seemed somewhat cave-like, where Elvia told me that the men were sent to stay awhile for “discipline.” Maybe they had to pray or read more, or were kept in isolation awhile.
The grounds were so peaceful and pretty. I love the palm trees and flowers.
It was here where Elvia and I stopped and rested at a bench with seats, by trees with gorgeous orange flowers, that Elvia told me (in Spanish) she thinks I’m going to write another book — about Guatemala. I smiled. Maybe so! But I think I’ll need to come back to Antigua, Guatemala, for more inspiration and research to write it!
In my next blog, I’ll share pictures with you of my favorite (so far!) cathedral in Antigua —the old Antigua, Guatemala cathedral, with its exposed arches that lets the sunshine stream through. It is gorgeous, and as Kim, her boyfriend Stan, and I entered, we saw a gorgeous and prophetic surprise.