Sunday, May 20, 2012

Getting Away - Chiquinquirá - (Part 3)

Not to show me off, but to give some perspective of the scale of the church.
We had to get up early to go from Puente Nacional to Chiquinquirá. That meant no breakfast for me, which made me a little grumpy. Not even a cup of tea to start. Harumph!

Chiquinquirá is to Colombia what Rome is to Italy, but the Catholics will probably get upset with my comparison because Chiquinquirá is hardly akin to the Vatican. Still, it is where the faithful come from all over Colombia - and elsewhere - to seek an audience (and hopefully a miracle for them) with the artifact housed in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary de Chiquinquirá that represents the Virgin de Chiquinquirá, the title of the Virgin Mary, patron saint of Colombia. It has been stated that the first of the Virgin's miracles occurred in this city long ago.
Turning around from where I was standing, looking south.

At 8,435 feet above sea level Chiquinquirá is about two hours north of Bogotá, in the department (state) of Boyacá.As you can see from my ruaná, I am dressing for the chill. Although the sun was out for part of the day, that elevation really requires (at least as far as I'm concerned) several layers. Other hardy folks took the sun to mean warmth and were dressed in less, but I suspect they are more local than I am.

Near here we had a nice breakfast with hot chocolate.
The plaza surrounding the church is enormous. I didn't actually walk all around it, but it is larger than anything I have seen to date in Colombia.

The featured artifact is a canvas painted with natural colors from the soil and vegetable juices showing the Virgin between St. Anthony of Padua and St. Andrew the apostle. This was created by Alonso de Narvaez, a Spanish artist in Tunja at the request of Don Antonio de Santana back in 1586. The present Basilica was started in 1801 and took 120 years to complete, modeled after the great churches Europe with 15 internal chapels representing the 15 houses of the Rosary.

The painting, hard to see in the interior shot (below) of the Basilica, is surrounded by bright yellow satin curtains as part of the huge altar. It is about 30 feet above the altar, making it easy to recognize, if not clearly discern, as one approaches from the back of the church.

Interior shot of the altar in Basilica de Chiquinquirá.
As we arrived, the church was filling up with the Sunday faithful and hopeful. I was a bit awestruck by the numbers of people who were literally on their knees making their way from the back of the church up to the altar, probably about 350 feet on a marble floor. Although it was not a festival day or the memorial day of the Virgin, the church filled up quickly. I wish I could have spoken to someone about the organ. It was magnificent to hear it; it sounded as if it probably had as many pipes as St. Bart's in New York.

The distance from the painting made it hard to get a very clear shot without a tripod.

The reliquary of Our Lady of the Rosary in the Basilica de Chiquinquirá.

We stayed long enough to see the beginning of the mass, but the schedule for getting to the oldest church was tight, and we had to leave before it was over. I really wanted to hear some more of that wonderful music from the organ, so I was dragged from the church being advised the bus was waiting, only to find out we had to wait for the driver, who (it seemed) was appreciating the church, if not the music, as well.

Chiquinquirá is a wonderful place to buy guitars, really good ones for Tiple or other kinds of music, and if I'd had more time I would have enjoyed shopping at more of the tiendas around the plaza. The city is named after the tribe of indigenous peoples who lived here first long ago. They fought with other tribes and were successful - history is, after all, written by the winners.

Getting help to get the van rolling.....
As a side note, it turned out that the bus that was hired was not exactly the best. The only way it could be started was if it was on a downhill slope so it could be jump-started. The first discovery of this essential fact was when the driver was unable to park it on a slope in Puente Nacional and the men of our group, plus a few from the street, were encouraged to give it a push... I tried to tell the women sitting inside they should get out to make it easier for the men, but they simply shrugged their shoulders. In Chiquinquirá we utilized some of the Army youth to push it uphill so it could roll downhill and .... start.

Our next stop would be Ubate and Sutatausa, but because that is a very special place with lots of history and information, I am going to save that for the final part of this journey "Getting Away - Ubate/Sutatausa (Part Four)" and I hope you will come back to read that portion.
A very nice specimen of Equus near Chiquinquirá.
 We returned to  Puente Nacional from Chiquinquirá and Sutatausa, just in time to see over 600 horsemen and women (collectively called ‘cabilleros’) ride around the central park as a culmination to all the feria activities.

With each lap around the park, the group in the lead increased the speed.
At first I was excited to see so many lovely horses in one place - this is the area where the Paso Fino breed is featured, I am told - but then I found myself having a real sense of anxiety with that much horseflesh, knowing the mind of the horse, being triggered by some random event causing chaos of huge proportions.
Young horse and young rider - no judge on style & form.

But it wasn’t the horses that caused a problem. It was a man, either leaning on or being pushed up against a metal railing about 10 feet above the street, who fell to the ground almost at my feet when the railing gave way. 

My immediate reaction was to give aid, but not speaking enough Spanish, I was afraid I would only add to the crisis. Instead I became a human barrier, keeping others not directly related to the man or to the emergency personnel away from him. He was unconscious for at least three minutes and his wife had her hands full trying to keep some drunk from attempting to pull off his shoes – WTF? – and keeping other well-meaning, but obviously inexperienced people from trying to move him in other ways. As he came to, he was able to get up on his own and refused medical aid. But I could see the huge lump developing on his right temple and I sincerely hoped – and intended – that he did go to the hospital because that was a serious fall and he did have a head injury. Unlikely we will know the outcome.

After a long day of many sights and sounds, I was ready to go to bed, but we still had a long drive back to Barichara. And my intentions to have the rain stay away long enough to enjoy certain events was delivered, so I was grateful on many counts for this "Getting Away" weekend.

NEXT: The final installment with the portion of the trip to Ubate/Sutatausa - Please come back!

No comments:

Post a Comment