Iglesia la Merced Granada Nicaragua

The five most beautiful churches in Granada

Granada is one of those showcase cities whose eternal beauty lies deep within her Spanish colonial roots. Founded in 1524 by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, much of the city remains the same as it was hundreds of years ago when the Spanish landed in Granada and conquered the people and their land. Despite being ransacked, destroyed and burnt to the ground, Granada has remained shockingly intact with its glorious cobblestone streets, opulent Catholic churches and vibrantly colored architecture, making it one of the most beautiful cities in Central America.

Catholicism arrived in Nicaragua in the late 16th century during the Spanish conquest of Latin America.  To build their empire, the Spanish constructed grand, elaborate cathedrals throughout the region and Granada received her fair share of beautiful churches. Today roughly 90% of Nicaraguans practice some form of Christian denomination with the majority being Roman Catholics.

The sound of church bells is a constant reminder that you are in a Catholic country where religion still plays an integral role in people’s lives.

There are five main churches that grace Granada’s picturesque streets: The Iglesia la Merced, the Cathedral on Parque Colón, The Iglesia de Xalteva, the Igelesia Guadalupe and the Antiguo Convento San Francisco. All are worth checking out as they are equally beautiful in their own right.

Iglesia la Merced

Built in 1534 (sacked and burned and rebuilt again in 1670),  the views from the bell tower are the most spectacular in the entire city. High on top, you are rewarded with a 360 degree view of Granada’s terra-cotta rooftops, the stunning lake and the volcano.

Iglesia la Merced Granada Nicaragua

Climbing the narrow stairs, you reach the centerpiece of the church: The bell tower. The panoramic views from high above the busy streets of Granada, are sensational and perhaps my favorite view in all Granada.

Iglesia la MercedGranada, Nicaragua

I could have stayed her all afternoon watching the world go by on the streets below but alas I had four more churches to see and it was getting hot.

Iglesia la Merced Granada NicaraguaIglesia la Merced Granada Nicaragua

Here is a beautiful view of the Cathedral on the central plaza, the heart and soul of Granada. You can also see the lake, Lago Cocibolca and Las Isletas where I would go for a sunset cruise later on that day.


Antigua’s magnificent La Merced

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. 

Xela, Guatemala

The churches of Xela

Like most Guatemalan cities, Quetzaltenango (Xela) is centered around a large glorious Catholic church.  Espiritu Santo Cathedral was founded in 1535 after the Spanish conquered the city of Xela and has remained the heart and blood of the city ever since. It is located in the parque centroamerica and can be seen well above the city from numerous vantage points.

Although Guatemala is predominantly Catholic, many other religions have established themselves throughout the country thanks to missionaries.  You can find loads of evangelist churches and even Mennonite communities as well as Mormons. In fact, you can find any religious establishment except Jewish or Muslim.  For some reason, I found this surprising. 

Most churches in Guatemala are either dove white or brilliant yellow-gold.   The architecture was sensational of course and the churches instantly became a focus of my attention for numerous pictures.  Here are some of my favorites. 

Here is Xela’s centerpiece, Espiritu Santo.