Very close to my hotel, I walked past the baroque Santo Domingo church, Templo de Santo Domingo de GuzmÁn, with it’s striking ornamental agave landscaping, several times a day without realizing this was the famous Centro Cultural. I knew that at the far end of the 2 block-long wall was the entrance to the botanic garden but the place was so huge, by the time I got from one end to the other, the perception that they were part of a whole was gone.
Templo de Santo Domingo de GuzmÁn
It’s a curious habit of mine, waiting until I’m running out of days to do the things I want most to do. It was no different in Oaxaca, saving the botanic garden within the Santo Domingo complex until the last English tour, 3 days before my departure, and postponing visiting this building until the day before I was to leave. Maybe a case of saving the best for last? I don’t know, but with no safety net of days, I entered the magnificent church and found a wedding in progress, a case of part good and part less good. Good, as I was to discover not long after the wedding party exited the church, because the lights were on for the wedding mass, illuminating the golden altar and magnificent decoration, and less good because it delayed my access to the church interior. I was scolded by one of God’s soldiers on the scene while discreetly taking photos with the wedding in progress and those of you who know me can probably guess how effective that was. I wouldn’t have dreamed of being a nuisance for those there for the service and felt lucky to be inside while the space was being used for it’s true purpose.
When the lights went out, I went outside through the side door and asked a passerby where the entrance to the Cultural Center was, as it was not readily apparent. I was directed back around the corner to the front and to the left of the main church entrance. I paid the small fee to go in, was relieved of my bag at the checkroom, and entered what had been a monastery, occupying, with the church and the monastery garden within high walls, four square city blocks.
Centro Cultural de Santo Domingo
While the museum contains church and archeological treasures in the wing devoted to their display, the real treasure, no doubt, is the building itself. It’s vast, and even with my good sense of direction, I got lost several times, up staircases, down corridors, views to the interior of the complex and fleeting glimpses of the outside world, framed by the magnificent architecture. I no longer wonder about the power of the Church to convert indigenous people after experiencing this symbol of the Christian God in stone and gold.
Dancing Monks, above. Eavesdropping on Angels, below.
Treasures, Ecclesiastical & Temporal
The former monastery garden,...
...now the JardÍn EtnobotÁnico, next week’s subject.
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