Our Lady of Guadalupe Church
The church is now a symbol for this famous beach destination, a very Mexican Puerto Vallarta, that should not only be admired from the outside, but also from within. (PromovisionPV)
Puerto Vallarta's parish Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe is a city icon, it dominates Puerto Vallarta's downtown skyline and is one of the favorite symbols and landmarks of the city, both in photos, shirts, logos and postcards.
If you've been to Vallarta, you have surely visited it, if you are to visit the city, add it to your list of things to do in town, it not only is great for your souvenir photos, you'll get a glimpse of one of the most important monuments of the city and the spiritual center of the Catholics in town.
There's always activity around and within the church, the church bells are rung by the sextants 30 and 15 minutes prior to each service, but it reaches almost a level of frenzy in the 12 day Our Lady of Guadalupe Festival (also known as Feast of Guadalupe), held every year from December 1st to the 12th.
During these festivities, you'll notice a mix of both traditional Christian and Aztec motifs, young warriors dance in the streets, processions advance through the streets and include lots of banners, music, singing and colorful decorated floats mainly with scenes that include the Virgin and Juan Diego, commemorating the miraculous apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe to the indian peasant called Juan Diego on December 12, 1531. These festivities are attended by tens of thousands, locals and visitors.
Processions lit by candlelight start off on Av. Juárez close to the Woolworth Store and advance toward the Our Lady of Guadalupe church.
Along all the side streets and the Main Square, you'll find vendors selling all kinds of food, sweets, souvenirs, toys and more. Tip: don't even consider driving into town during these celebrations.
As any town in the lands that were part of the Spanish conquest of America, you'll find a church that is always placed by the main square in the village or town, many are out of proportion with the size of the city or town, others are very simple, with almost nothing more than an altar.
Puerto Vallarta is no exception, the history of this important church in town is quite interesting and represents in a building the changes the town had along the way, going from a small village all the way to a big city.
The foundations of the church were started in 1903, but at the time there was already a small chapel there dedicated to Virgin Guadalupe. In 1915, Father Francisco Ayala arrived and he, with foresight, suggested that a bigger temple than the one that had been designed be built instead.
The existing foundations were strengthened and finished by 1917, including the main pillars and walls. Construction continued advancing in the early 20's around the still functioning chapel, including the blessing of the "eucaristía", the main bell.
Construction work halted completely in 1926 when a conflict between church and state escalated to outright war, known as the Cristero War, which ended in 1929.
Church construction started in 1930 with the beginning of the dome. By 1940 the entire building was finished, except the two towers. On December 12, 1951, the chancel and the Hammond organ installed in it were used for the first time (notice the date). The father at that time, Rafael Parra, wanted the main tower finished at that date, but this wouldn't be the case until 1952.
To "crown" the construction, what better than a crown, in this case a replica of the one used by Carlota, the mistress of Emperor Maximilian in the 1860's, it was placed on the main tower in 1963.
Under Father Ramirez's supervision, both the front side and lateral towers were finally finished in 1987 and what we know as the Guadalupe church was finally ready.
The church itself, not a cathedral as many name it (it's not presided by a Bishop), is not really a sophisticated architectural design, it's a mix of styles that is the result of the different parish priests' tastes and ideas that appeared along the way, elements are neoclassic, as the main building, the crown is reminiscent of baroque European temples, the side towers have a renaissance touch, and so on. The end result is surprisingly appealing and certainly makes for a beautiful landmark in Puerto Vallarta.
The original design of the church indicated that it is a tribute to the original Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. In the church there is an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe that people venerate a 1945 oil replica by Ignacio Ramirez, a Guadalajara artist.
The original crown on the church was damaged by weather and erosion and was restored in 1981. In October of 1995, it was completely destroyed after a strong earthquake. It was replaced with a temporary fiberglass model and since then has been replaced with a crown sculptured by the famous Jalisco artist Octavio González Gutiérrez who is also responsible for the whale sculpture you find when entering the Marina Vallarta area.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish (Parroquia de Guadalupe) is located at Hidalgo #370 by the Town Square, telephone is (322) 222-1326. English Mass is held at 4:00 pm on Saturdays and Bilingual at 10:00 am on Sundays.
Surely the church is now a symbol for this famous beach destination, a very Mexican Puerto Vallarta, that should not only be admired from the outside, but also from within.
In contrast to the religious images on painted wood, the marble altar, carved wooden confessionals and the image of the Virgin Guadalupe by Ignacio Ramirez, artist of the state of Jalisco, this building is full of love, devotion and sacrifices and must be included on the list of places you should visit on your trip to Puerto Vallarta.
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