Gumbo was visiting the unusual steel church, Iglesia de la Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, located in Grecia, Costa Rica. Congratulations to master puzzle solver, George G, who recognized where Gumbo was.
I'd never seen a church whose exterior was made of steel, so when the opportunity presented itself I was quite intrigued to see it. Grecia is not far from the national capital, San Jose, and can easily be added to a day trip into the coffee growing hills north of the Central Valley.
Iglesia de la Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes is a beautiful bright red church nicely accented by white trim, but it is not the first church built in this town. It was preceded by a simple small chapel made of adobe, then a small church made of wood (which was damaged by fire), and finally a modest brick structure (that was toppled by an earthquake). A sensible plan was developed to build a church that was earth-quake proof.
There were growing numbers of wealthy coffee plantation owners living in the area, and they supplied the funding and plans for a fancier church, this one made of steel. The church was prefabricated in Belgium and the steel plates were shipped to Costa Rica. The plates arrived in the Port of Limon in late 1892 and were transported by train from Limon to Alajuela. From here the heavy plates were loaded onto ox carts and hauled 21 kilometers over the mountains to Grecia (the final leg of the journey taking up to two weeks).
The steel plates lay around Grecia for two years while people looked for an engineer who would complete the assembly of the church. Apparently there were no directions provided on how these places should be fitted together to produce the final product. Finally someone was found who could do the job, and the church was finally completed in 1897. If you look carefully, you can see where the steel plates are riveted together.
Windows and doors for the church were not received from Belgium, but in 1911 stained glass and doors made in Italy were installed.
The church has a simple but appealing interior, including its altar which is covered in marble. It's spacious and the floor is covered in Spanish tile.
As with many churches in Costa Rica, Grecia’s red metal church faces West. Costa Rica was and remains a religious country and this church, like most in the country, is the center of its community.
There is a spacious and comfortable park across the street from the red steel church, which is a popular place for people to relax and children to play.
An interesting stop.