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San Cristobal de las Casas, cathedral | by Arian Zwegers
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San Cristobal de las Casas, cathedral

San Cristóbal de las Casas, cathedral


San Cristóbal de las Casas, also known by its native Tzotzil name Jovel, is a town and municipality located in the Central Highlands region of the Mexican state of Chiapas. It was the capital of the state until 1892, and is still considered the cultural capital of Chiapas.


The municipality is mostly made up of mountainous terrain, but the city sits in a small valley surrounded by hills. The city’s center maintains its Spanish colonial layout and much of its architecture, with red tile roofs, cobblestone streets and wrought iron balconies often with flowers. Most of the city’s economy is based on commerce, services and tourism. Tourism is based on the city’s history, culture and indigenous population, although the tourism itself has affected the city, giving it foreign elements. Major landmarks of the city include the Cathedral, the Santo Domingo church with its large open air crafts market and the Casa Na Bolom museum.


The Cathedral is to the north of the main plaza and it is the most emblematic symbol of the city. The main facade faces its own atrium which is called the Cathedral Plaza. The Cathedral began as a modest church dedicated to the Virgin of the Assumption built in 1528. When Chiapas became a diocese in the 17th century, with San Cristóbal as its seat, this church was torn down to build the current structure, dedicated to Saint Christopher, the patron of the city. The overall structure contains European Baroque, Moorish and indigenous influences. The main facade was finished in 1721 and some final touches were added in the 20th century. The main feature of the church is its main facade, which was finished in 1721. It is Baroque painted yellow with ornamental columns and niches in which are various saints. It is divided into three horizontal and three vertical levels marked off by pairs of Solomonic columns and meant to resemble an altarpiece. It is further decorated with intricate raised stucco work mostly in white which show Oaxacan and Guatemalan influences. The layout of the interior shows Moorish influence. The main altar is dedicated to both the Virgin of the Assumption and Saint Christopher. The wood pulpit is from the 16th century and gilded. The side walls have two Baroque altarpieces, one to the Virgin of the Assumption and the other to John of Nepomuk. There is also a small chapel dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe on the north side. The sacristy has a large colonial era paintings of Jesus in Gesethame by Juan Correa as well as paintings by Miguel Cabrera and Eusebio de Aguilar.


It is common to see older indigenous women in the Cathedral, with some even traversing the entire nave on their knees to approach the large image of Jesus handing above the Baroque altar.



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Taken on May 21, 2013