Monday, December 19, 2011

Bogotá, City of Churches

A Bogotá chapel in a long-ago scene. 

When the Spanish invaded the New World, spreading Catholicism was one of their principal justificiations for creating their new empire. After all, Spain had expelled the last Muslim kingdom from the Iberian Peninsula in 1492, the same year Columbus reached America, making the fabulous new territory seem like their reward for defeating the Muslims.

A historic photo of central Bogota showing
locations of 21 churches. 
Bogotá was no exception. The city's historical center, La Candelaria, has nearly two dozen Catholic churches. Altho the Spanish conquistadores fell far short of saintliness: they built their empire on slavery, mass murder and forced religious conversion - altho some Catholics, like the Jesuits, did try to protect the native American people.

But whether they represent holiness or exploitation, Bogotá's Catholic churches, many of them centuries old, are historical and cultural treasures. Sadly, tho, several old churches have been destroyed, by the 1948 Bogotazo riots or to make way for 'progress,' such as the broadening of avenues. Recently, tho, others have been restored.

The Amigos de Bogotá Foundation, on Calle 12 No. 6-67, has an exhibition about the history and architecture of Bogotá's churches. The foundation's exhibit was designed by the architect Mauricio Uribe, of Los Andes University.

The Cathedral on Plaza Bolivar undergoing renovation. 

The Vatican's embassy in Bogota, on Calle 12 and Carrera 4. It was destroyed in April 1948 during the Bogotazo riots following the assassination of Jorge Eliecer Gaitan. 

The Iglesia de Egipto, perhaps a century ago. 

A church in the now shut San Juan de Dios Hospital in Bogotá's Los Martires district. 

Bogotanos crowd Seventh Ave. in front of San Francisco Church. The building in front was called El Humilladero and used for punishing sinners. 
San Francisco Church today. Three colonial churches stand here side by side. 

Las Cruces Church, south of La Candelaria. 

Tenth Ave., where an old church was demolished to make way for 'progress.' 

A Dominican monastery between Calles 12 and 13 and Carreras 7 and 8, built in 1888. The monastery was demolished to make way for Seventh Ave., and its adjoining church was leveled a few years later. 

Lions on the side of the Cathedral. 

The Cathedral of Bogotá on Plaza Bolivar today.

A church model with behind it the interior of the Cathedral of Bogotá. 

A historic scene on Seventh Ave., with the Cathedral in the background. 

A door of La Bordadita Church, now inside El Rosario University. 

Las Nieves Church, which was recently restored.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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