Friday, 7 December 2018

Mexico: Mérida (Plaza Grande to Paseo de Montejo)

The facade of the Cathedral

In the first stage of our walk around the centre of Mérida we walked along Calle 62 to the Plaza Grande. This post continues the walk along the west side and then up Calle 60 to Paseo Montejo. The west side is dominated by the Cathedral of St Ildefonso (named for a 7th century bishop of Toledo).  It is said to be the oldest cathedral in the Americas - it was founded in 1561, 19 years after the city itself. It is hard to get a good shot of it as there is a row of trees in front. I was intrigued by the right tower which seems to have a small pulpit and the remains of an ancient clock.

The interior is pleasingly simple  - although this was not always the case, rich decoration having been stripped away by angry peasants at the height of anticlerical fervor during the Mexican Revolution of 1910-20. There is a nave of plain round columns and a cupola over the crossing. You enter through an area with smaller columns and a lower ceiling. A pronaus maybe?

 As you come out of the Cathedral there is lovely view across the leafy square to the tower of the tower of the Town Hall.

On the North side of the square is the final grand building: the Governor's Palace. It dates from 1892 and is now a museum.

The pediment includes Mexico's eagle emblem and, more surprisingly, a bell.

 Leaving the square we noticed an intriguing church gable over to the right.

It turned out to be the Temple of St Juan de Dios. It was finished in 1562 and initially served as Mérida's Cathedral, so it is Mérida's oldest church. The main doorway, in a sort of Romanesque style, is very attractive.

The policeman clearly wasn't about to leave, so I had to include him. This probably appropriate as the police have quite a high profile in Mexico: we have seen state police, national police, military police, tourist police ... and any number of speed traps and check points on the roads.

We headed along Calle 60 and paused for a drink in a charming small square on the right, home to several attractive hotels and with a nice view across to the church of Jesus.

Next up was a rather nice art deco building on a corner. A friendly local, noticing my interest, told that it was imminently going to be done up.

A little further on was fabulous building belonging to the University. It was built in 1618 for the Jesuits who occupied it until they were expelled from all Spanish dominions in 1767. It now houses the University library.

Now we headed further along Calle 60 until, after turning right and left, we found ourselves in Paseo de Montejo. This grand avenue was laid out at the end of the 19th century with the intention of imitating the Champs Elysees in Paris. The funding came from the boom in Henequen (Sisal fibre). The first house on the left, one of a pair (known, reasonably enough, as the Twins) was quite remarkably grand.

 Soon there was a small but charming structure ...

... and a monster mansion, totally over the top, including this fabulously fierce gargoyle.

Finally, on the other side of the road, we spotted a house, now offices, with wonderful figures over the windows. I took them to be Mayan chiefs.

There may have been other worthwhile sights further along the Paseo, but by now we were tired and decided to call it a day.

Conditions: hot and sunny

Distance: a couple of miles

Rating: four and a half stars.

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