Going around Gracias’ Historical Town: its churches, the Royal Hearing of the Borders (Real Audiencia de los Confines in Spanish), Central Plaza, San Cristobal’s Fort, the Casa Galeano and the Botanical Garden, are around a three hour walk through streets filled with history and secrets. A place where you can either enjoy an incomparable sunset as well as enjoy Gracias’ local gastronomy.
San Cristóbal’s Fort
Its star shape structure and impressive towers allow an amazing view of the whole valley; up north you can see Puca Mountain, down south an imposing Celaque mountain, to the east, the city’s churches, and to the west a beautiful cemetery. Such elements make the Fort a milestone for visitors.
Built over a small hill right beside the city, though not colonial, the Fort has a couple of cannons donated by the Spanish Government to Omoa, municipality of Cortés, which later on were donated to Gracias, Lempira.
Curious note: Juan Lindo’s tomb, a former governor of Honduras, who was one of the most concerned for education in Honduras and in El Salvador, is located inside the Fort. Lindo’s friend, José María Medina, also a former governor of Honduras, built this fort with military intentions; however he also built it for it to be Lindo’s tomb.
Royal Hearing of the Borders
On May 16, 1544, the Royal Hearing of the Borders started its labors in Gracias’ Villa, an organization known to defend the human rights of natives. Gracias, used to be the capital of the country, originally named Gracias a Dios.
The Royal Hearing of the Borders, is considered to be the first Court of Justice in Central America, its frontal façade is to this day preserved to remember its splendor in colonial times, now that it still has the Spanish Crown emblem and two carved lions which represent a respect for the authorities.
Casa Galeano and Botanical Garden
The decorations of Casa Galeano were made before 1915. With its discrete elegance and exotic details, you can easily go back in time and be delighted with the warm splendor of one of the most important families in the region.
To this day, you can find part of Gracias’ history inside the impressive old objects in the house, and if you wish to celebrate an important event, this is the place to do it.
To one side of Casa Galeano, you can see the Botanical Garden founded by Mr. Alberto Galeano Trejo with the help of his four sisters. With a series of local species, the Garden has resting spots as well as paths with enough shadow from trees up to 25 meters in height. You can also listen to the birds chirping, see the birth of butterflies, as well as see 40 different types of plant species in an 8,930 square meter area.
Part of the species were brought from Cuba’s National Botanical Garden and from other countries such as France, Spain, and Mexico. Some of the most representative species are nuts from Brazil and Madagascar’s palms, which may be the reason that Palma Real (royal palm) still exists in Honduras.
To finish off your path through the garden, there’s nothing better than the orchid collection brought from Celaque mountain.
Iglesia de la Merced
Let´s enter into one of Honduras’ most old and interesting colonial churches. Its construction started in 1611, but it took 30 years to be finished. Its attractive façade with two bell towers and decorative motives added to the details on the inside are a perfect example of the American Baroque style. In that time the Kingdom of Guatemala (it was whole Central America at the time, with its capital being the actual country of Guatemala), was hit by several earthquakes and in the XVIII century there were three (1717, 1751, 1773), which were responsible for almost the total destruction of Guatemala and Gracias’ infrastructure.
Art historians often refer to the kingdom’s churches of the XVIII century as the “baroque earthquake” which states in one way the tragic way in which the cities were hurt and also the diffusion of the baroque style which was then mixed with Lenca and native beliefs.
Iglesia de San Marcos
Built in the XVIII century, its true value lies in preserving Gracias’ patron Saint, Saint Mark the gospeller that is why this is Gracias’ Parish Temple. With very simple decorations, the temple takes in, every Sunday morning, masses with choirs typical of Colosuca.
A very interesting detail is that apart from other colonial churches, its façade is not in direction with the Main Plaza, very curious because most cathedrals, churches and hermitages open their main entrances to this place in every city.
Iglesia de San Sebastián
Built in the XX century, it was originally located in front of Iglesia de la Merced, but because of past earthquakes it had to be demolished and rebuilt in front of Casa Geleano. Every January 20th, this place turns into a scenery for tradition and color during the Guancasco Fair.
Iglesia de Santa Lucía
This is the most simple, humble, and natural church of them all, distinguished by its mud floors and representative obedience-to-God ceiling. It dresses up in color every year from December through January as a stage for the Guancasco Fair as well as San Sebastian. This celebration between villains and “mejicapas” is a mixture between native traditions of Lenca origin and catholic custom inherited in colonial times.
Iglesia de Belén
This church was probably built at the end of the XVII century. It has two façades, one which contains the main entrance and the second one which has an entrance on the right side of the church. The façade might belong to a period older than the rest of the building itself, being that the building might have being destroyed in one of the earthquakes. The façade is very suitable for analysis of construction techniques that were used in those times.
3) SAN SEBASTIAN
Iglesia de San Sebastián
This church has a baroque style and was built between 1750 and 1800 by the order of the “mercedarios”. Honduras’ art from the XVI and XVIII centuries is a mixture of art represented in architecture, sculpture, painting, and silver by masters who copied European style but imposed the local importance. It’s not really strange to find in the façade’s decorations of the churches a grape right besides European grenades, peach pits, pumpkins, and corn, American products.
At the entrance of the temple, on the right side, you can find the area for baptisms divided by a wooden fence, carved with a wooden Latin cross in the center.
The choir benches are made up of wood with an inscription that says: “Being in this holy church the prime minister German Claros, being mayor the citizen Manuel Soto in the year of 1819”. There are three paintings here, The Holy Family, Sacred Heart of Jesus, and a Virgin of the byzantine style. The walls of the temple are mostly decorated with vegetable motives.
4) SAN MARCOS DE CAIQUIN
Iglesia de San Marcos de Caiquín
The atrium of the church is raised by three steps, a catholic symbol that means that the word of God is above all. In front of the atrium there´s a sculpture of the Calvary Cross, also raised above the three steps.
This altarpiece is one of the most reminiscent of the baroque style of the school in Guatemala, with big and beautiful ornamental elements that do not leave a single blank space for decoration.
Saint Mark, patron saint of the town, was one of the gospellers in the Holy Bible, companion of Saint Peter and Bernabet. His attribute is a lion, making echo of Saint John the Baptist’s saying: “The voice who screams from the desert”. This symbolizes resurrection and it is found at the right of the Christ.
5) SAN MANUEL DE COLOHETE
Iglesia de San Manuel de Colohete
This great construction dates from 1721 and it has been catalogued like one of the main example jewels of the American Baroque style; in fact the architectonic lines are a sample of the influence exerted by the city of Guatemala in the XVIII century.
The church which was built with marinates, wood, and mud, has a peculiar height floor that goes up to 15 meters. In the later part there are vaults that stand out and cover the tabernacle and presbytery; this causes curiosity when standing in the presence of five gargoyles standing on the outside.
Its wonderful partially polychromatic façade is like an altarpiece with three bodies that has flower motive decorated columns. Each one of the bell towers has a forged iron cross. It is called de “Sistine Chapel” of Central America, not only because of its great architectonic and religious wealth, but because of its impressive showy decorations in its inside.
Recently, a part of the central cupola had to be restored because of a ray that fell over the cross that crowned the top of it. However, in order to preserve this important patrimony, repairs are needed in the perimetral light wall, bell towers, and parts of the stucco in the façade that has been deteriorated because of the humidity.
In the inner part of the church, several of the wooden columns and inner beams will have to be partially or completely replaced since some sections have decayed or been damaged by the humidity. Given the level of importance of the church, the diagnosis that will reflect the high priority works of restoration are being carried out.
6) LA CAMPA
Iglesia de La Campa
This church is a beautiful example of baroque art. It was built by the order of La Merced at the beginning of the XVIII century in honor of Saint Mathias, who was the posthumous apostle of Jesus chosen to replace Judas to complete the group of the 12 apostles.
The atrium or main background of the church has a Calvary Cross. Two squared based bell towers are around the building.
It is a very old school, today it is used as a great pottery gallery.
A place where you can discover what’s behind these pieces with hundreds and hundreds years of old traditions.
A lot of myths, thousands of beliefs, hundred ways of lives, cooking, in short, a point of reference if you want to see a demonstration and a place to talk about Lenca Pottery.
At La Campa, we have a lot of pottery sales and with a great luck you may be able to make your own pottery piece.
Come on and discover a this a whole new adventure through these wonderful people.