Sunday, February 19, 2017

Convento de la Concepción

Iglesia de la Concepción

The Convent of the Conception was built on land donated to the Catholic church in 1563 and was completed by Bishop Francisco Marroquín in 1620. The adjoining church was completed in 1729. The convent was considered the most elegant in the region and, in the words of English Dominican friar Thomas Gage, "The other convents are also very rich but after the Dominicans nothing could come close to the ruins of Conception." So, too, was the city of Antigua the epitome of Spanish city planning and architecture. It was considered the second most splendid city in Spanish America after Mexico City itself.

Iglesia de la Concepción from Calle 4

Young Mayas beside the northern wall of the ruins of El Convento de la Concepción

Native Antigueña Juana de Maldonado y Paz took her vows just as the convent was being completed so that she could devote herself completely to her artistic and intellectual pursuits. She took the name Sister Juana de la Concepción. She was not required to pay a dowry because her services as a musician were in such demand. Her father, a prominent judge, built Sister Juana living quarters that were known for their opulence and soon her rooms were full of poets, painters and writers. In 1648 she became the abbess of Concepción a role she filled till her death in 1666.

Among the descriptions of the convent are these numbers: 103 nuns referred to as "inmates", 140 pupils and 700 maids and slaves. Clearly, this was a four star convent.

The reign of Antigua as the second jewel in the Spanish crown was cut short when the city along with the convent and church were severely damaged by the earthquake of 1751 and leveled by the massive Santa Marta quake of 1773.