Hands down, the most beautiful church in all of Antigua and perhaps all of Guatemala is the magnificent Iglesia y Convento de Nuestra Señora de la Merced (La Merced for short). Construction began in 1548 by the Mercedery Fathers who dreamed of building a temple, yet the church suffered several setbacks due to Antigua’s infamous earthquakes which wreaked havoc and destruction throughout the city.
It wasn’t for another two hundred years that the cloister and sanctuary were finally built and finished in 1749. Then another traumatic earthquake struck Antigua in 1773 causing significant damage to the church and leaving its marvelous ruins behind it.
Today, La Merced is one of the only old churches that is still offering services on a regular basis and its brilliant yellow and white colors are a delight to the eyes and the soul. When the Antiguan sky is clear and royal blue, the brilliant gold-yellow of La Merced is perhaps one of the most glorious sights in all of Guatemala. Here are some photos of the magnificent La Merced and you can judge for yourself.
La Merced blends in perfectly with Antigua’s brightly colored colonial buildings and architecture. Here is a glimpse of the church on the lefthand side of the photo.
The sky was not yet clear and some clouds remained. I could only imagine how spectacular this photo would have been if we had a clear day! The next morning when I left, it was brilliant blue sky and everything in Antigua including La Merced came to life.
On top of the church is a purple Semana Santa flag.
Gorgeous purple jacarandas were in bloom throughout the city, going with the purple pious theme for Semana Santa.
I love this picture! If you look closely in the window, you can see the reflection of the clouds!
The detail of the church is immaculate and I could not get enough of it. So incredibly beautiful! I love the white against the yellow. So pretty!
As often found in foreign countries, you can see the local women outside churches and other tourist attractions selling their homemade wares.
The inside of La Merced is just as spectacular as the outside with an enormous altar and dramatic high ceilings.
More purple for Semana Santa.
Once inside La Merced, I was in for a huge surprise! Before one of the altars was perhaps the most gorgeous, brightly colored Alfombra (colored sawdust carpets used in the weeks before and during Semana Santa) that I had ever seen! I am cheating by including these photos again as I already have used them in my timely post on Semana Santa (Holy Week) a few weeks back on Easter Sunday. But these photos are so spectacular I had to include them again in this post.
Fruits and flowers are common decorations around the alfombras and are used as offerings.
For some reason, I just adore this photo of the old, pious Guatemalan woman lighting candles. It was so touching to me.
After being completely blown away by La Merced, Lucy and I went out back to see the dramatic ruins left behind from the earthquakes.
Stay tuned…..the post will be coming up next!