Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 18, 2007
Mexican gem honours St. James
Dominicans began construction in 1535
St. James – July 25
By TED FITZGERALD
- WCR photo by Ted Fitzgerald
A tour group visits the monastic complex of Santiago.
Today, the unfinished buildings are a recognized state colonial monument and are visited by thousands each year. Visitors will gasp at the impressive, colonnaded roofless nave, the cloisters and the elaborate accommodations of the Exconvento de Santiago.
The only life to be found among the stark stonewalls is the small church dedicated to the apostle, the living heart of the complex.
When visitors there inquire of the people who come for a few moments of mid-afternoon prayer and meditation as to the presence of their patron, they will gladly be shown the statue of the apostle.
Represented by the only statue in the church sanctuary, he occupies a place of honour to the right of the altar. Santiago is attired in colourful green and violet robes, bears a shepherd's crook and a book and is surrounded by a profusion, in great variety, of fresh flowers.
The people of Cuilacan happily embrace both appellations of their saint in their modest church.
James, with his brother John and Peter, are the more prominent apostles whose activities appear in the Gospels. They were witnesses to the Transfiguration and the agony in the garden and, in the case of the two brothers, are portrayed as impetuous and, in the beginning of their apostolate, self-serving.
James was beheaded by Herod Agrippa in the year 44, becoming the first apostle to endure martyrdom.
Suitably impressed by the image of the people's patron, visitors experience an additional discovery as they are led back down the nave to be presented with another incarnation of the parish namesake. There, in an alcove surrounded by more fresh flowers, is the bearded image of the famed fierce crusader for the faith, Santiago Matamoras, armour-clad, mounted on a snow-white war horse, sword in hand, ready to prevail over the enemies of Christ.
Relics of St. James are thought to have been transported to Spain centuries after his death where they become the basis of the great medieval pilgrimage destination of Compostela and his new warrior image. The people of Cuilacan happily embrace both appellations of their saint in their modest church.
After a final few minutes of silent prayer in the placid sanctuary of Cuilacan, visitors exploring the area often opt to seek out and pause at nearby Zaachila for a light repast at popular Restaurante La Capilla where local specialties might include mole (chocolate) enchiladas and the sinfully thick, sweet Caf‚ de Olla, seething with brown sugar and cinnamon.
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