Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Summer 2007 Car Trip - 7

Before visiting the Church of Santo Domingo, L led us down the street to see the town square. This is where the big teacher strike took place that literally shut down tourism in Oaxaca for awhile. The square was still resplendent with graffiti and a total lack of any grass, due to the thousands of people who had camped in or passed through the square in the process of protesting.

I was suitably impressed by the square. Actually, there are two of them, adjacent to one another. One was very similar to ours here on the island, just a big open space. The second one was more typically Mexican with the requisite bandstand and topiary lined aisle ways. The bandstand was quite the piece of work. It was round and actually elevated with stores down a few steps beneath it. They ran the entire circumference of the bandstand, like catacombs with trinkets for sale. I did not personally descend to this level so I am not sure what all was down there. From the entrances, all I saw was tacky tourist gift shops.

We left the pleasant zocolo behind and headed up the street to the Church of Santo Domingo.
What a splendid piece of architecture.
Here’s part of what the Lonely Planet has to say about it:

It was built mainly between 1570 and 1608 as part of the city’s Dominican monastery. The finest artisans from Puebla and elsewhere helped with its’ construction. Like other big buildings in this earthquake-prone region, Santo Domingo has immensely thick stone walls.

The exterior of the church is imposing, to say the least. Fronted by an impressive courtyard filled with rows of agave and surrounded by Flamboyance trees.
A welcoming plaza, it was filled with many local people, enjoying the warm afternoon and the tranquility of this place.

If the exterior is imposing, the interior is downright overwhelming. Every square inch of the ceiling is covered with gilt encrusted vines, twining their way around intricate designs and painted figures. All done in bas relief. It was almost sensory overload, trying to take it all in. I kept getting a kink in my neck from looking up!
We wondered around this church, dodging the million or so other tourists there that day, exploring the various rooms and vestibules. I just wish they would close it down for awhile and spend some time dusting and polishing everything. It would be so much more stunning if the golden gilt shone as in its’ heyday.

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