Monday, January 23, 2012

Guadalajara's Top 20, Number 9: The Guadalajara Cathedral

Okay, my faithful readers, it's confession time. Which is appropriate, I suppose, as today's topic is the Guadalajara Cathedral.

The confession is simple: I don't want to write this blog post. Now let's be clear: I have no problem inserting photos and comments about Christian houses of worship into my musings about towns we have visited during our many travels, or even taking a friendly jab at one every now and again. What I am opposed to is focusing my efforts on Christian churches when I would feel far more comfortable chronicling stories of Jewish synagogues. Alas, the two synagogues in Guadalajara are quite private, and not that photogenic. At least I think there are two. If there's another, it's VERY private.

[Fun Fact: I just Googled "synagogue Guadalajara" to check my facts, and this link was number three on the list. While cool for me, it does seem to indicate the lack of a strong Jewish presence in the city (especially since that particular post wasn't even about Judaism). In fact, statistics (i.e. Wikipedia) show that there are only 250 or so Jewish families in Guadalajara, split between the Modern Orthodox and Conservative branches of the faith.]

With that said, our Top 20 list included the cathedral, so I am honor-bound to write about it.

The cathedral has a long history mired with troubles. Construction was completed in 1618, seventy years after the region was declared a diocese by the Holy See and forty-four years after a fire destroyed parts of the previous cathedral.

Two hundred years later, an earthquake caused the dome and towers to collapse. The replacement components were themselves destroyed by yet another earthquake in 1849. Although the damaged portions of the building were once again redesigned and reconstructed, no fewer than six additional earthquakes plagued the cathedral over the new 162 years, resulting in the current structural damage to the dome and the slight lean of the north tower.

The cathedral, aka Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady, aka La Catedral de Guadalajara, aka Catedral de la Asunción de María Santísima, is a city staple. Taking up a space of approx. 255 x 239 ft2, the building dominates the city's historical center. Stylized renderings of the cathedral's spires can be found on the trunk of every taxi cab and in the logo of a national pharmacy chain. When the Pan American games were being heavily promoted last year, much of that marketing found itself in close proximity to Our Lady. When Los Gigantes visited the city, their parade route led them down a path that ensured their passing by the church. Anytime I find myself playing tour guide to a visiting friend or a new coworker, we inevitably end up here. When looking for the perfect photo to grace the cover of a recently published guide for American citizens living in Guadalajara that I served as editor for, I could think of nothing more representative of the city than an aerial view of downtown with this church as a focal point.

There is not doubt, whether it be due to the dominance of Catholicism in local culture, the building's prime location in the historic district, or both, that The Guadalajara Cathedral is a bustling nexus of activity for the city's residents and visitors alike.

The Guadalajara Cathedral is located in Centro Historico at #10 Avenida Alcalde, between Hidalgo and Morelos.

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