You don’t have to stray very far from Antigua’s center to get away from the crowds and the noise surrounding Parque Central. The city’s southeast section is what I know consider the ideal version of Antigua before, you know, all the tourists and people like me showed up.
The area is fairly quiet, housing some of the biggest colonial-era churches in town that have not become dilapidated ruins. In fact, until fairly recently (last century), many of the houses around here didn’t even exist, since the land was used to plant crops and for animal grazing.
One of my favorite areas in this part of town is the neighborhood around Escuela de Cristo, located on pretty Calle de los Pasos. This church, along with Belen right behind it, are a favorite of locals, who mostly hang out in the small parks in front of both churches while leaving Parque Central mostly to visiting foreigners and city folk.
Escuela de Cristo church and plaza
Escuela de Cristo church stands out because of its renaissance-style facade. Along with church and convent Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Zaragoza (a.k.a. Capuchinas) and the Municipal Palace, the buildings exhibit a bare-stone facade devoid almost entirely of stucco – an architectural hallmark of architect Diego de Porres, the same who also designed the Fountain of the Sirens at Parque Central and the other buildings I just mentioned.
If you pay close attention to the arch at the entrance to the church, you’ll be able to see Porres familiar seal (a hand holding an architect’s compass). Notice the bell towers and windows, the only parts in the exterior of the church that are covered with stucco.
Convent, Escuela de Cristo
The church’s convent isn’t open to the public, but if you happen to visit when the building’s front door is open, feel free to wander the halls. Its stairwells are reportedly haunted – or so says a worker I chatted up during one of my many visits.
Inside Escuela de Cristo
This church is also noteworthy because it was here that the wake for Hermano Pedro was held, a massive event attended by the whole town – and surrounding ones too. A plaque inside the church commemorates the date the event took place (April 25th, 1667).
Retablo for Escuela de Cristo saints
While there are a few events happening here during Lent, Escuela de Cristo is better known for its massive Good Friday procession during Holy Week. It’s on this day that the venerated image of Señor Sepultado (Buried Jesus) is first displayed on a cross, later to be taken down and reverentially paraded throughout the streets of Antigua. An interesting detail is that this image has hinges on its shoulders, head and hips, which allow for the repositioning of the image on the cross and later, inside a glass urn.
Señor Sepultado and Virgen de la Soledad images – the latter attributed to sculptor Pedro de Mendoza
Another piece of art worth checking out is “Adoration of the Magi”, a restored 19th century painting
I leave you now with additional images of Escuela de Cristo and Lent vigil displays.