Antigua - God's City of Earthquakes

Here I am overlooking the old capital of Antigua, it's not actually the first capital of Guatemala in fact It is generally considered to be the third. The first was a capital that was used by the natives that the Conquistadors had to overcome and then the cockiest adores made their first papal Well from the distance there is just beyond see the big red square building where there's an orange roof and a white horizontal stripe well That's where the first capital was made and it was there for about twenty years until it rained for three days This was a bit of a disaster because on the huge slopes of that massive volcano over there Looking - over looking the town That's known in the local languages as Hunahpú Mudslides formed. They came crashing down the sides and they completely demolished the old capital Killing in the process the governess. The wife of the conquistador who had been governess for just three days So they decided that that was too dangerously close to the mountain so they would lay out another Capital here we see in the foreground This is Antigua and it started in a little square that I can just see there in the center of town where there's some trees that's where the armaments museum is, and they got in an italian architect to lay out the city on a grid pattern and This became the model for all Colonial Spanish style cities in the new world - a grid pattern - which is the opposite of what you find in Europe. In Europe You'll see a map of Barcelona or some other town and you look for the old town That'll be a maze of little winding streets in the center And then the grid happens later - that's the outskirts, the modern outskirts But here the center of town is this orderly grid with these fine villas from very rich people Near the center and it's outskirts as of the riot of winding streets. From this high vantage point, it is clear that the biggest and most impressive buildings are all religious monasteries of various different monastic orders. Abbeys, cathedrals Even as we admired the view, we spotted that some of the clouds were not part of God's backdrop beyond the horizon but were emanating from volcanoes where mortals might tread and talking of treading New horizons in danger. I was standing right next to this Little volcano created by fire ants and apparently they bite. Here comes the equestrian statue! Right, well, let's go down to the central square by means of a crossfade That's where I was and now this is where I have come Yeah, it is protected by the Blue Shield of the 1954 Hague Convention This was the very noble and very loyal city of the Knights St. James. St. James, Santiago's and Knights of de los Caballeros So this was Santiago's de los Caballeros and there is a pattern to the layout of this square That was - it was repeated again and again throughout the new world It started first in Mexico City then was used in Lima and Peru. And this is the third to follow this model You have the four different important arenas of human activity represented on the four cardinal points of the compass so to the south you have the army barracks and That's where they were stationed and to the west we have the world of commerce. That's where the main market was The main Principal point of the compass of course is north. And that's where government was so the government houses there You can see a bit of an old building there. That's not the original in the corner over there The original unfortunately fell down after an earthquake and to the east we have the cathedral. Now Christian tradition demands that church is faced east So it seems that cardinal point of the compass had been back seat by the church. As for why It's military to the south and commerce for the west I don't know. It could be that they were just the other two. Anyway, this was the model that they all follow They had three volcanoes and a lot of soldiers, so what did they put on their coat of arms? Yup Behind me is a fountain It was designed in 1737 By Diego de Torres and he was an architect Italian architect of great renown in his time. He did several churches of the round here and Antigua was known for its fountain and fountains are very impressive. This one isn't entirely original It was refurbished in 1949 But it gives you quite an idea of what it looked like. One of the things that impressed people greatly which would be mermaids They are supposed to be mermaids Apparently their mermaids, I don't actually see any fishes tail But apparently they're mermaids and there was a vogue before putting mermaids on thing that lasted hundred years or so and What is impressive about this? Well, there's water spewing up 20 feet into the air, but we're on the flat plane down here So, how do you actually Before the days of electric pumps, how you actually achieve this? We have to - but I don't actually know how it was done but you have to build up a pressure of water to Achieve that, so it's very impressive. If you colonize an area and build a load of fountains that can spew this precious resource Just into the air just for decorative effect. It's very impressive. It's one way of showing everyone that you are technologically pretty advanced Now here we have the convent of Santa Catalina In fact it's two convents There was one on this side of the road and there's one on this side of the road But there was a problem because how could the nuns Get from this Side of the convent to that side of the convent? because they were an invisible order - you've heard of the silent orders that aren't allowed To speak. Well these nuns were not allowed to be seen in public They tried to get the roads closed off that they could go from one side to the other but that didn't prove practical So instead this massive arch was built and within it there is a corridor but you'll notice that there are no windows because they had to be Unseen by the general public so they could get from one side of the road to the other and carry on celebrating God without being seen This is the church of the order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy Also known as the Mercedarians, the Order of Captives, or the Order of Our Lady of Ransom Originally set up in 1203 to provide ransoms for poor Crusaders captured by the Saracens this order as you can see still somehow managed to get extremely rich This late 18th century style is called ultra baroque which sounds like a 1980s pop band You can see a giant rosary of 50 beads Which hangs at this time of year in honor of the holy month of the Virgin Mary and rosaries London was once the capital of the world, right? A lot of people thought that the way to become great was to emulate London and what they got in London They've got pigeons. You've been to Trafalgar Square. Yeah, it's full of pigeons So obviously that's a high status bird to have. They are of course Unfortunately rats with wings that poo everywhere and now because people got this silly idea into their heads It was a good idea to have pigeons They imported them all around the world to capital cities and on behalf of the population of Britain I would just like to say I'm terribly sorry The cathedral, from the outside, it appears to be an excellent repair - the inside tells a different story I am now in the bishop's secret chamber. Ordinary visitors to the Cathedral today don't get to come here But I've been let in specially. Now, one way up to this chamber is up the stairs that you can see my cameraman ascending but there is another way in through a door, which has been blocked up and that would Connect directly to the bishops Chambers where he lived. Now, from here through this window the bishop could see the fabulously opulent wall, that would have been there at the end of that most holy of chambers here. You can see up in this wall. Lots of beam holes Even some bits of very old timbers sticking out Some of the timbers were actually preserved and were kept for centuries stored away There are many beam holes, but they're not for holding up a floor. They're for holding up the tremendous weight of the silver that was here. There were sculptures of saints and martyrs and all the iconography that That the Catholic Church could come up with at the time and it tells us something about just how Opulent it was that it required all those beams just to hold it up. The wealth of this place that had been Accrued over two centuries was quite staggering another thing The bishop could do was seat himself under this arch here Where he could look down and see all the people coming through the substantial doors there which blocked off hope this whole area through to the most holy chambers or he could look down there to the gates to Parliament itself and no one would be able to see him do this because you Can see that there is beam holes in the walls here Which is where a hefty wooden screen would have been across here screening him from their view We can see big slots cut into the wall and ceiling showing clearly where the substantial partition wall was to keep out the riffraff This pink coloring on the plaster is not the remains of red paint But the result of a chemical reaction of the white plaster involving water and direct sunlight This is a very substantial door They wouldn't just let anyone through that door because I am privileged now to be walking into What was the council-chamber if you like. The Catholic Parliament this is where the elite would walk around on these tiled floors and Debate and under this amazingly echoey roof I imagine that if more than two people spoke loudly in this room, it'd be very difficult to hear what the dispute was But this is where the big decisions - Should they go to war? What should the taxes be? This is where all the big decisions were made because of course the church was extremely powerful and influential on this ceiling above us We see the coat of arms of King Charles the first of Castile and Aragon Who was a patron of this Cathedral Yeah, the money man, he paid for this and thanks to his patronage The Catholic Church was largely in power and debated in this room And so that I'm very privileged to be walking on on this High-status floor Although as you can see the world of banal storage has taken over and today we have piles of plastic chairs This is going to be a little venue for concerts and the like once they've restored the Cathedral I'm (laugh) I love the acoustics in here Ah! Now if I were here in 1772, I would have a roof above me I'd be having to stoop slightly because this would have been a crypt in which there were some very high-status burials in prime position here  We have the tomb or the remains of the tomb of a priest who was called Juan Godínez and you must been pretty senior To have got that prime position But in 1773, God changed his mind about his preferred shape for this Cathedral and there was a massive earthquake The biggie - and it shook this building so amazingly violently, that the huge dome above me which must have been very substantial and we can see how substantial because This is a part of the dome. Look how thick it was! It came crashing down - it fell through, whats that, must be 40 more feet of Air and it hits the floor Above me with such force it must have been traveling at a hell of a lick that it's smashed right the way through and we Can see these two huge lumps of it still embedded in the floor They were of course far more here as well as all the rubbles from the smashed ceiling above me But they've removed almost all of it But they've left these two and they really tell the tale you can see how substantial they were and you can just imagine What the speed they must have been going out when they hit the floor Now this hole you can see here. It's actually been dug quite recently by archaeologists investigating what lies under here and they found quite a lot of bones. Now one possibility is that of course Prior to 1773 that there were people buried under the floor down here in the crypt, which isn't all that surprising But there is another theory of course, which is that during the earthquake a lot of people could have come running down here in order to shelter from the rage of God and It turns out that well, they weren't as safe as they had hoped Those dream tiles were on the outside of the building and they set a trend There are many domes still around in the Americas today that have that sort of pattern on the outside Pottery. I know, this is a scapula A clavicle, or what we call a collarbone. Yeah, collarbone But look it's empty, a child's collarbone. I think there's plenty more to be found because it definitely sounds hollow down there The main abb(ey)s which has a room beneath it, but they have covered over the stairs leading down to it because They didn't entirely approve of what was sometimes going on down there "With your love, you're going to turn me into a woman" and I - and I ... It's very nice poem. Mhm "Turn into a woman and I wake up in your arms" - or that Can mean Oh "Coming Rodriguez and Carlos Rudolph" 1985 10th of May. The 10th of May? Can you see that? El Salvador? So she was a tourist? Yeah. She's from El Salvador Can you recognize that as not Guatemalan Spanish? Is it slightly different? No. We were talking about the importance of graffiti man, I'm a big fan of graffiti Okay, historical records as long as it's least. Yeah How many years old? How old does graffiti have to be before it becomes history? 20. 20? I would say after that its just vandalisim. Si, I would say - I would say vandalism there Okay, if you can do some graffiti 20 years ago, that's okay. Yeah, see if you can arrange that Immediately adjoining are the spacious ruins of the Bishop's Palace Washbasins, laundry facilities, More bloody pigeons Oi! Cameraman! Leave them alone now here We have a lot of big lumps of rubble, but something that's unusual about these is that they actually lie where they fell. This here is the base of a column which is where it was originally built and there's a row of them along here and Here we can see mid bits of columns. And over here we can see the arches that were on top of those columns and So we could see that this entire wall just went (falling noises) Crash! that way Another thing we can see here is that These - which are part of the Bishop's Palace - are elaborately painted which Weirdly, I think, the main cathedral wasn't. The main cathedral was just plain white So You know, clearly, we see which bit was the more important as far as the bishop was concerned It had a lot of painted and inscribed patterns on the walls Here I am in the private chapel of the bishop and We can see it's a pretty opulent We got loads of patterns painted on the wall And this was dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe, just as in Mexico, and it's unusual in it's got a bit of surviving ceiling which you can see has deep carvings on it up there and A part of that came down and it's very clearly - there's a bit of that the pattern there repeated - so this is a section of the ceiling that has come crashing down and One thing that we do know is that the ceiling came crashing down after This section was built. Which is a bit of a mystery because what is this section? It's far too substantial to be a partition in the middle of the chapel and it doesn't look like anything that you would plan to be there and if you look above It you'll see that the pattern on the wall goes all the way across so this is only down here and There are also some cracks coincident with it in that wall and there are more big cracks there So, I was talking to the director of the restoration I just suggested that maybe this was a buttress. There were, don't forget, many earthquakes Before the big one that wrecked everything so it could be that there was an earlier Lesser earthquake that created a few cracks that made them think, "Oh, this doesn't look too safe" And so as a fix they built this substantial buttress at the bottom. I am conjecturing Let's go underground Here I am in the vaults beneath the Cathedral these were used to store all sorts of supplies Now I imagine some of you are wondering what is this strangely shaped thing and in truth I can't tell you exactly why it shapes this particular way but I've been told that the other side of this wall was a big drain and there's a hole - it's been knocked in this ceiling and It seems to me that these are three steps that have been added rather crudely later, so that would make it easier for people to climb down So, presumably this was added later for getting stuff in and out, but I don't say this with any greater authority But what I can say, because it's recorded in the archives, is that down in these vaults they stored a lot of soap and the significance of this soap was that it was English soap! And the significance of that was that Charles, King of Spain, had forbidden the Locals here to trade with the English. So this was all strictly hush-hush This was the distribution center The soap was taken to Honduras than it was traded here and stored in secret and then distributed So the people of the locality could have soap! Across the road from the Cathedral is the University. The fourth university to be established in the whole of the Americas. On it is the 1823 coat of arms of the United Provinces of Central America, looking rather masonic. Is that really the Hat of Freedom under a rainbow or the all-seeing eye? A lot of these high status buildings in the city are still linked by the old network of private underground tunnels. I think some of this plaster is modern. I'm a trained archaeologist, you know When some of these lumps came down, it must have been very noisy This is where the second and third cathedrals were built for this region The second Cathedral got so badly damaged that they remodeled it substantially and it became the third but actually in between and after the second and third there was an awful lot of repair work that Needed doing, for the simple reason that there were an awful lot of earthquakes in fact there were 25 in the century after they built the second Cathedral for the region the first on this site and It seems that after the the big one in 1717 and they're really really big one in 1773 They decided that enough was enough They were not going to rebuild this Cathedral again nor indeed most of the town which got wrecked and in fact, what they would do is move the entire capital from Antigua to Guatemala City and that is when they started calling this place Antigua because it means The old town Lindybeige!


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