Travel Diary Nicaragua: A Peek Inside Churches of Granada
One of the first stops I try to make in a foreign country is a local house of worship. Be it a shrine, temple, mosque or church, they can offer the tourist a window into the culture, traditions, art and architecture of a place, all conveniently rolled into a single spot.
I am especially drawn to the catholic churches of Central and South America, where European tradition is often given a colorful, dynamic twist. Those in Granada Nicaragua proved no exception. I visited several during our stay, each with their own unique flavor and beautiful (if sometimes seemingly bizarre at first glance to a Gringo) details.
The rich mustardy ochre color of the cathedral’s exterior reflects the warmth and vibrancy of the square it faces and by extension the city it dominates.
While many tourists ascend the tower to take in the view, I was content to look up at the ceiling which featured paintings of classic scenes from the bible.
I loved the expressions on the faces of the somewhat jealous looking woman lurking behind God and a shocked cherub discovering an especially lusty looking Adam and irritated Eve.
I also admired the nice graphic punch lent by the pandas and holsteins boarding Noah’s Ark. Hats off to the artist who decided to include them.
Iglesia de le Mercad
A few blocks west of the cathedral, the softly worn patina found on la Iglesia de la Mercad’s colonial façade ends the moment one steps through the door.
Inside, arches, corinthian pilasters, and other architectural details are crisply accentuated in tones of mocha, coffee, and cream. Below, Jesus lies in his glass coffin.
Despite well-meaning attempts to soften his appearance with a white lacey spangled skirt and lilies at his feet, he gave off a bit of a macabre vibe. At the back of a little side chapel, what initially appeared to be a painting of a visitation by the Virgin Mary
turned out to be multi-dimensional combination painting/bas relief/diorama upon closer inspection.
On our way out we passed this richly painted wooden statue of the Virgin Mary (or maybe a female saint) with a rather sinister looking dog (or dragon) at her feet.
Stylistically, they might feel more at home in the next church we visited.
Iglesia de Xalteva
Highly varnished dark wood and bright blue accents set the interior of la Iglesia de Xalteva apart from its peers.
The gold detailing highlighting the ceiling paintings are almost enough to distract one from statues encased behind glass along the aisles, but not quite.
I have to admit they gave Madame Tussauds a run for their money!
The same holds true for statues found in the Antiguo Convento San Francisco (adjacent to the museum of the same name). A simply robed monk
and richly robed Jesus almost seem like they might reach out and touch you through the grille they stand behind at any moment
Capilla Maria Auxiladora
My hands down favorite church in Granada was the last one I visited, la Capilla Mamaira Auxiladora. The cool, blue green color scheme of the interior was at once soothing, natural and contemplative.
Nearly every architectural element was embellished with patterns, symbols or flowers in a tour de force of decorative painting.
The church is adjacent to a school, which probably accounts for this shiny sculptural group of a clergyman and children.
As if it was reading my mental wish list, this church also featured one of those great bas-relief painting combos, this time with a white-bonneted lady who exhibits a little more than the standard ecclesiastical interest in the Padre she is entrusting her school-age son
Granada’s churches are generally open most days and tend to be within walking distance of each other thanks to the Colonial City’s compact layout. I would recommend visiting as many as you can when there.