“A journey through time, an architectural historical reconstruction of the Church of the Company of Jesus in Guatemala”, is the title of the production from the Formation Center of the Spanish Cooperation in La Antigua Guatemala (AECID) and Axl Dettoni Films. Directed by Axel Dettoni, and published November the 19th 2018. The short film employs technology as an ally to announce and help the comprehension of the whole complex’s history, as well as the precinct’s importance for the colonial city.
It starts with an aerial shot of Cerro de la Cruz that allows the appreciation of the city from the heights, after this we can see the ruins of the church from the outside, and when we pass the entrance gate is when the interior of this magnificent edification is revealed to us and our journey begins. It takes us back to the city´s foundation in 1543, when it was named Central America’s Captaincy. So that the offsprings of the best positioned families from Costa Rica to the south of Mexico would come and study in San Lucas’ School of the Company of Jesus, and the church had to reflect this importance.
It was in 1698 that the temple was consecrated, in a property that was owned before by the author of the “Real history of New Spain’s conquer”, the chronicler Bernal Diaz del Castillo. The major architect of this church was José de Porres, who previously was the second architect of the Cathedral´s construction. The Company of Jesus ‘churches began to have their own language in Spain, and the same happened in America.
There’s a seismic story that accompanies this city, as well as the church kept growing in magnificence, it was marked by the earthquakes too. In 1752 there was an earthquake that forced the construction of the third level. Two towers were built over the belfries, one on each side, which gave it more stability and a baroque image character. It transformed in the biggest mural paint in the kingdom of Guatemala. The signs that its triumphal arch guards are exposed to us by Fernando Urquizú, PhD in Art History.
Charles the III ordered the expulsion of the Jesuit Order from all the territories of the Spanish government in 1763 and the church was given to the archbishopric. The temple’s total destruction arrived years later with Santa Marta’s earthquake, same that forced the Major Captain to move the city. After the moving to Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción, just a small core of citizens remained in the city.
The city hall was reestablished in 1799, giving a new boom to the building. A year later, in the middle of the industrial revolution, a dye factory was installed in the church’s ruins. After that, the country’s economic system changed with the introduction of the coffee growing, giving way for the installations to become coffee drying patios. This peculiar scenario went to become the municipal market more than a century after that, in 1912, until a new earthquake in 1976 made a series of disasters that made the market move to a different site.
The building was in disuse for many years until 1992, when the Spanish Cooperation proposed a planning and urban development project together with Antigua´s Municipality and the Protection Council. The effect of that project was the rehabilitation of the Company of Jesus’ School. As Dunia Valenzuela, Restoring Architect and Coordinator of the Workshop School of Antigua, explains to us: ‘What once was classrooms and church, today is classrooms, library, cultural and exposition center. That cultural spirit keeps surviving in these centenarian walls.’
This video-documentary with a running time of a little bit more than seven minutes joins together the new technologies with the heritage and architecture of La Antigua Guatemala, is available in different digital platforms and social networks like YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook and axeldettoni.com.