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Posts Tagged ‘La catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción’

Today is the culmination of the ten days of festivities celebrating El Señor del Rayo — an only-in-Oaxaca observance.  Early Saturday evening, on my way to an event at the Museo Textil, I ran into a calenda (parade) of his.  I was going in the opposite direction and felt like I was swimming upstream.  What to do?  Stop, take a few photos, and enjoy the music and dancing until it passed by, of course!

El Señor del Rayo is a wood-carved Christ on the Cross figure that was brought from Spain in the 16th century, a gift to Oaxaca from Charles V.  The image was placed in the temple of San Juan de Dios, a church with adobe walls and a straw (or possibly wood) roof.  According to religious lore, lightning struck the church and everything was destroyed, save for this figurine.  A miracle!  The statue became known as El Señor del Rayo (the Lord of Lightning), was given his own chapel (the furthest capilla from the main entrance on the left) in the newly built Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, and has been much venerated ever since.

El Señor has a body double as the original, given it’s importance and value, remains behind glass in his chapel (first photo above).  Today, the line of faithful waiting to worship him stretched into the aisle leading to his chapel.  Restoration work was done on his replica earlier this year, but it is back on the main altar and available to travel through the streets during this afternoon’s procession, along with the estandartes (religious banners) currently leaning up against the inner walls of the Cathedral.

Tonight, like all good Oaxaca celebrations, be they religious or secular, there will be pirotécnicos — fireworks and all things pyrotechnic, including a castillo.  For the uninitiated, a castillo is a multi-story erector set like structure with moving parts that is wired with colorful explosive charges.  Another noisy night in Oaxaca!

By the way, in previous years, the inside of the Cathedral was festooned from bottom to top with lilies — greeting all who enter with Divine beauty and fragrance.  However, this year there are many fewer floral decorations and no lilies.  I’m wondering if the lily-growing region was affected by the hurricanes and/or earthquakes….

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Though rain began falling, clutching camera, umbrella, and my ten peso bag of pan bendito (blessed bread), I left the cozy dry confines of my apartment to join the faithful in a ritual promenade.  It’s Jueves Santo (Holy Thursday, Maundy Thursday), commemorating the Last Supper of Jesus, the washing of feet,  and the apprehension and imprisonment of Jesus.

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San José de Gracia, Oaxaca de Juárez

Tradition in Oaxaca calls for visiting seven churches (la visita de las siete casas) with one’s pan bendito and palm leaves.  The faithful use the latter to touch images of Jesús and María.  This year, I again committed myself to the mission.  My first stop was just around the corner at Templo de San José and the second was even easier — the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, just across the Plaza de la Danza from the former.

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Watery entrance to the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, Oaxaca de Juárez

While inside, attempting (unsuccessfully) to get a good shot of Nuestra Señora, the heavens opened up in a downpour.  Needless to say, I hung out with Soledad until the torrential rain calmed to only a steady drizzle.

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Neverías at the Jardín Sócrates, Oaxaca de Juárez

However, the rain didn’t stop the faithful and tourists, alike, from stopping to enjoy a nieve (iced dessert) right outside the Basilica, before continuing on.  I kept on moving — down the steps to Calle Independencia, on my way to the Templo de San Felipe Neri.

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Exit sign at Templo de San Felipe Neri, Oaxaca de Juárez

By the way, Jueves Santo is such a big deal, to avoid gridlock from those coming and going, the churches designate one door as the “entrance” and another as the “exit.”  It’s a great idea in theory but in practice, especially on a rainy night, it was almost meaningless.

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Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, Oaxaca de Juárez

Next stop was across the street at the inconspicuous Iglesia San Cosme y Damián, then on to the very prominent Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, where the three front entrances were providing tourists, vendors, and believers shelter from the storm.

After navigating my way through the Cathedral, I exited stage right, dashed across the zócalo and into La Compañía (the Jesuit church).  On my way out the side door, I stopped briefly to buy a bag of homemade gingersnaps and, with umbrella raised, headed to my seventh and final church of the night, El Carmen de Abajo.  Though tempted by the aroma of some yummy looking food several “church ladies” were selling in the side foyer, I didn’t have enough hands to hold a paper plate, my camera, and my umbrella.  So, home I went, basking in the warm feelings I always have after being with my Oaxaqueño neighbors.

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I love going into Oaxaca’s cathedral at this time of year, when the fragrance of thousands of flowers, especially lilies, perfumes the air.

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The Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción is being readied for October 23, the day Oaxaca celebrates Señor del Rayo.

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Like Guelaguetza, Noche de Rabanós (Night of the Radishes), and Día de la Samaritana (Good Samaritan Day), this is an “only in Oaxaca” celebration.

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This carving of Christ on the Cross was brought to Oaxaca during the 16th century and was placed in the temple of San Juan de Dios, a church which had adobe walls and a straw (or possibly wood) roof.

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Legend has it that lightning struck the church and everything was destroyed, save for this figurine.  A miracle!

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The statue became known as Señor del Rayo (Lord of Lightning), was placed in his own chapel (the furthest capilla from the main entrance on the left) in the newly built cathedral, and has been much venerated ever since.

P1140855October 21, in anticipation of his special day, the cathedral is festooned with lilies and Señor del Rayo is moved out of the glass case in his chapel, to the main altar of the cathedral.

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October 22 will be filled with religious and cultural events and at midnight, when the calendar day changes, the cathedral bells will peal and cohetes (rockets) will announce the arrival of Señor del Rayo’s special day.

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In honor of His day, on October 23, there will more spiritual and cultural festivities, culminating in a castillo and fireworks.

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As the color and scent of the lilies fade, on October 24 Señor del Rayo will be returned to his chapel.

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The end of eleven days of festivities celebrating Señor del Rayo.

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Ahhh, it feels good to be back in the warm and wonderful Oaxaca.  There are the sounds…  I awake to church bells, followed by the loudspeaker cry of “Gas de Oaxaca” from the propane vendor.  Last night, as I was heading to bed, rockets exploded and, just now, the camote man’s steam whistle sounded, announcing tooth-achingly sweetened hot sweet potatoes and bananas.  Then there are the sights…

The walls continue to talk…  On Thursday, I saw this on Calle Morelos as I walked to the Alcalá and comida with friends.  It remembers Leonel Castro Abarca, one of the 43 still-missing students from Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos teachers’ college in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero.

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On the way home from comida, I detoured to see what was to be seen on the zócalo.  Teacher tents remain pitched around the bandstand, but the walkways were free of ambulantes, and, as always, the Cathedral presided over the scene.

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Thursday, the familiar sounds of protest were irresistible.  I grabbed my camera and headed out the front gate to see a massive march by healthcare workers on their way to the Plaza de la Danza.  To be honest, tubas and cohetes would have had me out the door, too!  It was way too quiet in el norte.

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And, what can I say about last night’s sunset from the terrace?

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Naturally, a marmota and pair of monos were waiting on the plaza in front of Santo Domingo this afternoon, awaiting a bride and groom to emerge.  After all, it is Saturday — wedding day in Oaxaca!

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I wonder what my ears will hear and my eyes will see, mañana…

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In the words of Flannery O’Connor, “Everything that rises must converge.”

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In front of the Catedral Metropolitana de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, the lonas rise and the ropes converge.

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It’s amazing how sometimes light, shade, and a pristine backdrop can come together to highlight something you have looked at hundreds of times, but have never really seen.

Early last week, on a stunningly clear blue sky day, I passed the La Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption) and stopped dead in my tracks.

Mexican flag atop Cathedral

The flag must have been what initially caught my attention — it’s not an everyday occurrence — but what held my gaze were the three gals atop the Cathedral.

Seated female statue on top of Cathedral

I wondered, are they new?

Standing female statue on top of Cathedral

Once home, I scrolled through old photos I’d taken and sure enough there they were in every photo of the Cathedral’s facade.

Seated female statue with arm around child on top of Cathedral

Hmmm…  How could I have missed their imposing presence?

Now to find out who they represent.  (You can take the librarian away from the reference desk, but you can’t take the reference questions away from the librarian!)  Anybody out there have any answers???

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Yesterday, under a full moon…

and clutching our “pan bendito” (blessed bread), we began our pilgrimage.  Jueves Santo (Holy/Maundy Thursday) tradition calls for visiting 7 churches (la visita de las siete casas) in the city with one’s pan bendito, which must be kept to offer to guests, should any grace our doorstep.  This all relates back to Jesus’s Last Supper, which this date commemorates.

3 buns on a plate

First stop was the nearby Templo de San José, where palm fronds were also distributed and believers used them to brush up and down the statue of Jesus.  Hands also ran down his legs and then were used to touch one’s face.

After emerging from the side door of the jam-packed church, we set off for Templo de San Felipe Neri (whose picturesque dome can be seen (left of center) on my blog banner-head).

Altar with candles and lights.

Next stop was Carmen Abajo

Altar with JHS on banner above altar

followed by the far right side chapel of the La Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción.  A plaque at the entrance of the chapel read, “El maestro esta aqui y te llama” (The teacher is here and calls you) and the multitude seemed to be heeding the call.

Altar with red banners reading, "De este pan no morirá; El pan de vida eterna"

We then strolled across the zócalo to the Jesuit, Templo de la Compañía de Jesus.

Altar with candles and flanked with yellow and white floral arrangements

We changed direction and headed north up the Álcala.  Big mistake!  A mosh pit (Chris, this WAS a mosh pit) surrounding a Tuna band that was playing in the middle of the street, causing gridlock and bringing us to an abrupt stop.  Eventually, following our blocker (my son, the lineman would be proud), we eventually found light and continued up to Preciosa Sangre de Cristo Templo, where we had earlier spent 1-1/2 hours (and it was still going on when we left!) at a mass where the priest reenacted Jesus washing the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper.

God in a cloud above a lamb on an altar, draped in red cloth.

Strolling across the Álcala to Santo Domingo was much less challenging. The aisle to Santo Domingo’s main altar was blocked and we were routed to a side chapel.  Hurray, we did it — this made seven churches visited!

Gold encrusted altar

However, though bleary-eyed (as evidenced by the photo below), we opted for just one more, Carmen Alto.

White bearded man hovering in the clouds above lighted candles

Home beckoned…  and sleep came easily under the watch of the moon, now appropriately encircled by a halo.

Full moon with halo shining from behind clouds

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