Saturday, June 2, 2012
NW Yucatan Part 11: The Royal Road to Campeche
In this posting, we'll look at a stretch of the Camino Real (Royal Road) between the Templo de San Juan Bautista and the Ermita de San Isabel. This part of Merida begins 3 blocks south of the Plaza Grande and provides an interesting morning's walk through several centuries of Mérida's history.
Templo de San Juan Bautista
retablo literally means "behind the altar." This structure is part of the rich tradition of Mexican religious folk art from the 16th through the 19th Centuries. The statues and paintings of saints in the niches were usually made from tin, zinc, wood, or copper. The San Juan Bautista retablo is in the neo-Gothic style and is one of the few the survived the anti-clerical destruction that occurred during the Revolution. Inside the retablo are mechanical pulleys which can be operated to cover or reveal the saints.
the city of T'ho, upon which Mérida was built.
El Camino Real
Caste War ravaged Yucatan. Maya insurgents laid seige to Mérida and came within a hair's breadth of forcing its evacuation. In the face of all these threats, Mérida authorities fortified the city, and created entrances guarded by gates like this. Of course, Mérida has long since expanded beyond its old limits and what remains of the fortifications are a collection of charming old arches.
Campeche, a fortified Spanish port, is located on the west coast of the Peninsula 156.55 km (97.28 mi.) to the south. The Camino Real was constructed in 1790 under the orders of Colonial Governor D. Lucas de Galvez. Prior to that, communication between the two cities was primarily by ship.
Maya nobles from the old society were able to continue their privileged positions, at least for a time, by adopting Christianity and collaborating with the Spanish Conquest. Although the identity of Culcal Kin is still a mystery to me, my friend and fellow blogger Debi Kuhn (see Debi in Merida) sent me a charming legend about the house. During the 1862-1867 French occupation of Mexico, fighting occurred in Mérida between the French and the supporters of Benito Juarez. A cannon ball hit a statue of San Antonio (St. Anthony) which was apparently attached to the original house, destroying the image of the child held in San Antonio's hand. This was a great sacrilege and, ever since, a ghost in the form of a faceless priest in flowing vestments has haunted the neighborhood. Some of the decorative elements of the house appear to be identical to those found at the Hermitage of Santa Isabel, a couple of blocks down the old Camino Real.
Hermitage of St. Isabel or Good Travel
means "small chapel or shrine." After the completion of the Camino Real in 1790, the Ermita was viewed as the jumping-off-point for the long and sometimes perilous journey through the coastal jungle to Campeche. It was also a spot where tired travelers coming the other direction could find lodging and refreshment before entering Mérida. The gate at the right leads into a cool, shady, botanical garden. Although it is usually called by the name of Santa Isabel, the Ermita has also been known as Nuestra Señora del Buen Viaje (Our Lady of the Good Journey).
Santa Isabel (1271 AD-1336 AD), a Spanish noblewoman from Aragon. She was very pious and, after marrying the King of Portugal at 12 years old, she became known for building numerous hospitals, orphanages and other institutions to help the poor. Her gentle nature and ability to facilitate agreements led the fractious rulers of Medieval Europe to call upon her to settle disputes, thus avoiding much unnecessary bloodshed.
place the choir area and the organ on a raised platform or a loft at the back of a Roman Catholic church. The presence of a nearby cemetery led to the Ermita being used as a convenient place for funeral processions to stop and hold a final mass for the dead.
Templo del Tigres, (Temple of the Jaguars). The temple is located at the top of one of the walls forming Chichen Itza's Great Ball Court. At some point, the tree was transplanted to the Hermitage's garden. Growing from its lofty branches are what first appear to be vines.
Parque del Ermita de Santa Isabel
confidenciales, are a delightful way to pass the time, assuming you have a companion. They all seem to be of the same design and originated during the Victorian era of the late 19th Century when everything European was in high demand in Mérida. Space on the seats remains in high demand, and we rarely found them empty as these are.
The completes Part 11 of my NW Yucatan series. If you get to Mérida, I encourage you to spend a morning exploring this section of the old Camino Real. If you would like to provide feedback or comments, you can do so in the Comments section below, or email me directly.
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Hasta luego, Jim