La Merced Church and Monastery--page 1 (of three pages)

Juan de Dios Estrada
1749; inauguration 1773

Although the Fathers of La Merced (mercedarios) were among the first to establish a monastery after the conquest of Guatemala, the actual erection of a church was fraught with problems. In the mid-eighteenth century the architect Juan de Dios Estrada devised a structure built to withstand seismic destruction. Thus height was minimized and walls were thickened and buttresses added; windows were small and situated high in order to keep the mass low and concentrated. Still earthquakes in 1773 damaged the buildings and a new church was built in the new capital. Today this church has been restored so that its appearance is still that of the 1773 structure. It has been repainted in the "traditional lime-based yellow paint characteristic of colonial times" (Bell 67).

Main facade with monastery entrance to the left

The facade is covered with ornate plasterwork, called "ataurique." Pride of place in the facade, of course, goes to the Virgin of Mercy, the Queen of Heaven, who wears a crown similar to that in the heraldic symbol of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy (or Mercedarians).

At the very top there is a sculpture of San Pedro Nolasco who founded the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy in the thirteenth century. He is flanked by two Mercedarians and above him is the crest of the order. The Virgin in the central niche is flanked to the left by a statue of San Raymundo Nonnatus and San Pedro Arinengol (with a rope since he was martyred by hanging) and to the right side by the Mercedarian bishop San Pedro Pascual as well as the first Mercedarian nun, Santa Maria de Cervellón.

The bell tower with stucco "atlantes"


The lower register of the bell tower

Work consulted or Cited:
Elizabeth Bell. Antigua Guatemala: The City and its Heritage. Guatemala: Textos y Formas Impresas, 1999.

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© 2014 Mary Ann Sullivan. I have photographed (on site), scanned, and manipulated all the images on these pages. Please feel free to use them for personal or educational purposes. They are not available for commercial purposes.