Sunday, August 3, 2014

Aguascalientes Part 7: San Marcos' statue garden and lovely Templo

Statue of a flower girl in Jardin de San Marcos. This charming, life-sized, bronze sculpture greets visitors who enter the lovely Garden of San Marcos from the east end. You can find the Jardin by walking west on Calle Venustiano Carranza from the Plaza de la Patria. The Templo San Marcos stands at the west end of the Jardin. Together, they form the center of the Barrio de San Marcos, one of Aguascalientes' oldest neighbourhoods. The typical layout of Spanish colonial cities follows a pattern of concentric circles. The center was for the pure-blood Spanish, and contained the main plaza, the most important church, government buildings, and mansions of the wealthy and powerful. The next ring of the circle was for people of lesser wealth and power, such as soldiers, bureaucratic functionaries, and merchants. Many of these were mestizo or of mixed blood. The outer ring would be occupied by the indigenous people. They were the labourers and craftsmen who built and maintained those churches, government palaces, and mansions. Barrio de San Marcos was one of those early, outer-ring neighbourhoods. You can find the Jardin de San Marcos by clicking here.

Jardin de San Marcos

A massive gate guards the west end of the Jardin. The gate and the beautiful balustrade were built with pink cantera, a plentiful local stone often used for decorative work. The balustrade completely surrounds the Jardin. The whole park occupies a rectangular area of 168 m by 88 m (551 x 288 ft). It has a gate on each side corresponding to the four cardinal directions. When the Barrio de San Marcos was settled in 1604, it was actually a separate village from the city of Aguascalientes. The first residents were from Tlaxcala, the former indigenous kingdom to the east of Mexico City. It was one of Hernán Cortés' earliest and most faithful allies in the struggle to conquer the empire of the Mexicas (Aztecs). Thousands of Tlaxcalans marched in the conquistador armies. The Conquest could not have happened without them. It is likely that the Tlaxcalans ended up in San Marcos as a detachment of mercenaries to help defend against attacks by the Chichimec nomads on Aguascalientes during most of the 16th and 17th Centuries. Four hundred forty-two people settled down in the new pueblo of San Marcos and were granted self-governing authority by the Spanish Audiencia (ruling council) in Guadalajara.

A jewel-like 19th Century kiosco sits at the center of the Jardin. Paths radiate out from the kiosco (bandstand) to the four park entrances. The Jardin is a great place to stroll or just relax on a shady bench. The boundaries of the City of Aguascalientes eventually expanded to incorporate the pueblo of San Marcos, although the barrio maintained its own traditions. However, it lacked the central plaza that is vital to every Mexican community, so the residents applied to the city for permission and land to build one. In 1842, permission was finally granted and the land set aside. That same year the neoclassical balustrades surrounding the Jardin were built and the State Governor Nicolas Condelle officially opened it, although the first phase of building actually lasted until 1847. Forty years later, in 1887, four fountains were added, one for each corner, along with the wrought-iron benches. In 1891, the jewel-like kiosco was placed in the center, and the basic outlines of the Jardin were complete.

Two older gentlemen chat on a bench next to a vendor's booth. I love Mexican plazas with their bright flowers and cool, shady walkways. Always, there are wrought-iron benches for the weary or those who just want to while away the hours of a warm afternoon. These two appear to be old friends and may have been meeting on this same bench for decades.

Two other gentlemen, also chatting on a bench.  The work is entitled "La Banca de los Pájaros Caídos" (The Bench of the Fallen Birds). These two wear clothes from the 19th / early 20th Century era. The man on the right probably works at the railroad complex at the other end of town. This sculpture and a variety of others were installed in the Jardin in 2009. They were part of a major refurbishment of the park in preparation for the 434th anniversary of the founding of Aguascalientes. You can clearly see the quirky Mexican sense of humour in works like this. In fact, I have found bench-sitting bronze statues all over Mexico. It seems to be a popular theme.

A sculptor carved and painted a tree to represent the pre-hispanic god Quetzalcoatl. Raul Jorge Tapia Morquecho completed this sculpture in the autumn of 2011. The title is Quetzalcoatl, El Sexto Sol (Plumed Serpent of the 6th Sun). It was carved from a 70-year old Ash tree. The sculpture demonstrates the pre-hispanic concept of duality, with the green feathers representing the quetzal bird and the golden scales representing the coatl (serpent). In addition, the work celebrates the four basic elements of nature: earth, fire, wind and air.

Another bronze work, entitled "El Sereno." Wrapped in his serape and topped with a broad sombrero, El Sereno (The Night Watchman). calls out the time and assures that "all is well".  Figures like this patrolled the night-shrouded streets of the city in bygone times to keep an eye out for fires, marauders, or other disturbances.

El Barrendero ensures the walkways are free of debris. In a jaunty top hat and three-piece suit, this skeletal figure entitled El Barrendero (the Sweeper) gives a nod to José Guadalupe Posada, Aguascalientes' famous inventor of catrinas.

A workman in the posture of a matador. I could find no title for this statue, but the worker is clearly meant to represent a matador. Dressed in overalls and armed with a screw driver for a sword, he appears ready to do battle with the Bulls of Industry.

Siesta time in the Jardin de San Marcos. A weary worker takes advantage of an empty bench to enjoy a siesta on a warm afternoon.

Templo de San Marcos

A broad paved plaza separates the west end of the Jardin from the Templo de San Marcos. In 1655, a more primitive chapel was built here. In 1733, Dr. Don Manuel Colon Larreategui, felt the community needed a grander church and laid the foundations for the present Templo. However, the church wasn't finally finished until 1765. The facade of the church was built in the Baroque style in three levels with niches for five saints. In the middle of the second level, between two of the saints, is a stained glass window with the image of the Virgen del Carmen. The small figure in front of the church is a local policeman.

To protect and serve. This little fellow differed considerably from the much larger and more beefy policemen I saw around Aguascalientes. He seemed amiable, but rather bored, as he wandered around the plaza in front of the Templo. He did possess a mustache that helped provide the gravitas he might lack from his short stature.

View of the Templo from the north side. The belfry tower rises in two levels above the roof of the church. The dome roof is covered by beautiful yellow tiles.

Flying Buttresses support the side walls. On each side of the church are two flying buttresses, a method of supporting high walls that was an important architectural development in the Middle Ages. The buttresses allow much thinner walls and large, stained glass windows. The outward pressure from the weight of the walls is transferred from the buttress against the wall to the outer or "flying" buttress by means of the slanting bridge that connects them. Although the concept was not fully developed until the 12th Century AD, a precursor to medieval flying buttresses is described in the Old Testament Book of Ezekiel.

The beautiful Baroque lines are somewhat marred by the ugly clock tower. This was obviously some bureaucrat's idea of an "improvement."  I tend toward the philosophy of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it!"

The entrance is guarded by a pair of large, metal-sheathed doors. The coat-of-arms of the church is included in the design on the upper part of the door. Once inside the vestibule, you encounter an elaborately carved wooden barrier which shields the serene interior from the intrusion of exterior noises.

The face of the great entrance door. The surface is metal, pierced and studded by hundreds of pointed caps. This would certainly be a formidable barrier to anyone trying to force entry.

The interior of the church. There is a single long nave with a short alcove on either side. Together they form the traditional Latin Cross form of church architecture. At the far end is the main altar, covered overhead by the massive dome.

The pulpit. An elaborately carved pulpit is placed at the entrance of the alcove on the right. From this high point, a priest can exhort the faithful.

The main altar. In the niche at the center, the Virgen del Carmen is seen dressed in rich robes and holding the Christ Child. Above her, San Marcos stands in his own niche between neoclassic columns. The Virgen del Carmen is the patroness of the Carmelite Order, which originated on the slopes of Mt. Carmel in the Holy Land during the 12th Century. She is associated with a life a contemplation and prayer. San Marcos (St. Mark) is traditionally believed to be the author of the New Testament's Gospel of Mark. He founded a church in Alexandria and both the Coptic Christians and the Greek Orthodox Christians claim to be his successors.

San Geronimo and the lion between the arches supporting the dome. San Geronimo (St. Jerome) is one of the four Doctors of the Church. These were especially learned figures who made significant contributions to Church doctrine. During San Geronimo's life (347-420 AD) he spent considerable time in solitary contemplation in the Syrian desert. There, according to legend, he encountered a fierce lion which he tamed by pulling a thorn from its foot.

Interior of the dome. A chandelier hangs down from the center of the dome. In addition to San Geronimo in the upper left corner, paintings of the three other Doctors fill the triangular spaces at the corners of the arches.

This completes Part 7 of my Aguascalientes series and is the end of the series itself. Anyone who visits the city should take a stroll down to the Jardin and the Templo de San Marcos. It will be well worth your time. I hope you have enjoyed my posting and, if so, I encourage you to leave any thoughts you might have either in the Comments section below, or by emailing me directly.

If you leave a question in the Comments section, PLEASE leave your email address so I can respond.

Hasta luego, Jim

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