November 21, 2009
A couple blocks away, we stopped again at the Plaza de Armas, the center of the original Spanish settlement back in the 1540s. As you would expect by the date, the square contains some of the older buildings in Santiago, though due to periodic urban renewal by earthquake, few original buildings remain. Dad decided to stay on the bus for this stop, but I got off because I was looking forward to seeing the beautiful cathedral, built in 1745. The first thing that met my eyes was this:
Patricia tells us it represents the broken-ness of the indigenous Mapucho Indian culture. It's in the best tradition of Public Art, bought for the public because it's good for them.
There's a lot more to look at in the square, fortunately! It's getting late enough in the morning that some of the locals are up and about; it looks like they're setting up a combination art festival and flea market in the plaza today:
The tourist population is rising
and some adventurous window washers are working on the building next to the cathedral.
(There's not enough money in this world.)
It's really starting to warm up, too; people are finding places to relax and rest a bit.,
and so are the dogs!
We were given time to walk around the square, admiring the buildings. An enormous poster covered the facade of the Correo Central (the post office building):
advertising a free concert by Mahani Teave. I'd never heard of her, but she is a native of Easter Island who became a noted pianist -and talk about a small world: she got her Masters at the Cleveland Institute of Music! Too bad we didn't have time to attend.
The cathedral was beautiful inside, with baroque paintings,
richly decorated ceilings
and side altars
and two enormous pulpits:
They look a wee bit ostentatious, but they did have a purpose: in the days before PA systems a speaker could be heard much better from an elevated point, and the little "roofs" helped reflect sound farther. I had a marvelous time appreciating it all!
The crypt church (underground, directly below the sanctuary) presented a striking contrast:
I think the sixties have a lot to answer for. Since when is deliberate ugliness the equivalent of artistry?
Although the cathedral is open to tourists all day, it is very much an active church. Priests were hearing confessions (two confessionals, no waiting!)
and we couldn't go in one of the side chapels because a Mass had just begun. (It was packed.) A second side chapel was open for prayer, and I have to include the picture despite its poor focus to show off the amazing Jesuit-made silver altar furnishings:
There was also a touch of pure tackiness: a large statue of the Virgin Mary with a halo consisting of lightbulbs. I couldn't bear to take its picture.