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La Antigua Guatemala

La Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala

Antigua, Guatemala (Spanish pronunciation: [anˈtiɣwa ɣwateˈmala]) (commonly referred to as just Antigua or la Antigua) is a city in the central highlands of Guatemala famous for its well-preserved Spanish Baroque influenced architecture as well as a number of ruins of colonial churches. It served as the capital of the Kingdom of Guatemala. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Antigua, Guatemala serves as the municipal seat for the surrounding municipality of the same name. It also serves as the departmental capital of Sacatepéquez Department.




Homestead in ruins of a colonial Spanish building; Volcanes de Fuego (erupting on left) and Acatenango visible in distance
The city had a peak population of some 60,000 in the 1770s; the bulk of the population moved away in the late 18th century. Despite significant population growth in the late 20th century, the city had only reached half that number by the 1990s. According to the 2007 census, the city has some 34,685 inhabitants.



Antigua Guatemala means "Ancient Guatemala" and was the third capital of Guatemala. The first capital of Guatemala was founded on the site of a Kakchikel-Maya city, now called Iximche, on Monday, July 25, 1524—the day of Saint James—and therefore named Ciudad de Santiago de los Caballeros de Goathemalan (City of Saint James of the Knights of Guatemala). Naturally, St. James became the patron saint of the city.

Façade of the former El Carmen church in 2009.
After several Kaqchikel uprisings, the capital was moved to a more suitable site in the Valley of Almolonga (place of water) on November 22, 1527, and kept its original name. This new city was located on the site of present-day San Miguel Escobar, which is a neighborhood in the municipality of Ciudad Vieja. This city was destroyed on September 11, 1541 by a devastating lahar from the Volcán de Agua. As a result, the colonial authorities decided to move the capital once more, this time five miles away to the Panchoy Valley. So, on March 10, 1543 the Spanish conquistadors founded present-day Antigua, and again, it was named Santiago de los Caballeros.[citation needed] For more than 200 years it served as the seat of the military governor of the Spanish colony of Guatemala, a large region that included almost all of present-day Central America and the southernmost State of Mexico: Chiapas.

Santiago de los Caballeros was the third seat of the capital called kingdom of Guatemala which included the current states of Guatemala, Belize , El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, besides modern state of Chiapas in Mexico. After a flood destroyed the second city, located in the Valley of Almolonga, on the slopes of Volcán de Agua a new city was built in 1543 in the Valley of Panchoy, and it was established as head of the Real Audiencia of Guatemala in 1549. During its development and splendor was known as one of the three most beautiful cities of the Spanish Indies.

The city was laid out in a square pattern, with streets running north to south and from east to west, with a central square. For both church and government buildings were designated important places around the central plaza. Between 1549 and 1563, property southeast of the square was sold to the crown and occupied by the first president of the Real Audiencia de los Confines: the lawyer Alonso Lopez Cerrato, who also served as governor and captain general. The original building was small and paneled with portal, tile roof and adobe walls. The city is surrounded by three enormous volcanoes, and mountains, plains and hills. This territory was called "Valley of Guatemala" and had 73 villages, two towns and the city of Santiago de los Caballeros.

Due to constant problems between the conquerors and the representatives of the crown sent by the king of Spain, the Audiencia de los Confines was abolished in 1565. In 1570 the hearing was restored, this time independent of the viceroy of Mexico and the new organization was called Audiencia of Guatemala.

The Franciscan monks were the first to move into the valley Panchoy, the new capital of the Kingdom of Guatemala, and built a chapel on the site where later the Church Escuela de Cristo would be erected. This primitive chapel was destroyed in 1575 by an earthquake and during the next ten years collections were made to build the new complex, two blocks from the previous one. The Franciscan complex became a major cultural and religious center for the entire Captaincy General of Guatemala: theologians, jurists, philosophers, physicists and mathematicians studied in the school of San Buenaventura, which was located where the monastery ruins are. At that school studied Cristóbal de Villalpando, Thomas Merlo and Alonso de Paz.

The first building of a cathedral was begun in 1545 with the debris brought from the destroyed settlement in the valley of Almolonga; however, its construction was hampered by frequent earthquakes along the years.[9] The city was the final resting place of the great Spanish chronicler Bernal Díaz del Castillo and his remains lied in one of the churches that was eventually ruined by earthquakes.

The construction of the royal houses for the residence of the Captain General and the members of the Real Audiencia started in 1558. In the place were located the Royal Treasury, jail, Army quarters, the Hall of Arms, the housing of Audiencia members.

In the sixteenth century there were several important earthquakes on the following dates:

  • March 21, 1530
  • September 11, 1541
  • 1565 Exact date is unknown
  • 1575 Exact date is unknown
  • November 30, 1577
  • December 23, 1585

17th century events


The Jesuits founded the school of "San Lucas of the Society of Jesus" in 1608, which became famous and was unrivaled in terms of literature and grammar lessons; it was attended by the elite cassles of the city society, such as Francisco Antonio Fuentes y Guzman, the chronicler Francisco Vázquez and Pedro Betancourt. On 18 July 1626 the Jesuit temple was inaugurated; as the rest of the city, it suffered and was damaged by continuous earthquakes that struck the city between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries.

The monks of San Juan de Dios founded their hospital and monastery in 1636 and thereafter were in charge of the hospitals in the Kingdom of Guatemala. Their hospitals were:

San Alejo: for indigenous people
San Pedro: for ecclesiastical personnel
Santiago: for Spanish and mulattos
San Lázaro
San Juan de Dios: in 1667 the hospital of San Alejo was delivered to the Brothers of San Juan de Dios by the Dominicans who had managed it until then; in 1685, San Alejo and Santiago hospitals joined together, forming the Hospital San Juan de Dios.[13]
The temple of the Escuela de Cristo -School of Christ- was founded in the parish of Our Lady of Remedios in 1664 and from 1689 onward it was known as the Congregation of San Felipe de Neri. Meanwhile, around 1690 the Jesuits founded another school: the "San Francisco de Borja" where eventually would study and serve as principal the poet and priest Rafael Landivar, S.J.


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