Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 21, 2008
Spanish saint wrote on religious topics
This Toledo archbishop was also a caring shepherd, musician
St. Ildephonsus – January 23
By TED FITZGERALD
An historically significant painting shows local Mayan chieftains allying themselves with conquerors in 1542.
The saint was born in 607 in Toledo, Spain and, despite opposition from his wealthy parents, entered an area monastery and after serving as a humble monk, was appointed abbot and later ordained a priest.
About 657, he was named archbishop of Toledo, a post he held until his death 10 years later. In addition to a life as a dedicated pastor, he was an accomplished musician and is remembered for his writing on religious themes, treatises on Baptism, the virginity of Mary and biographies of contemporary churchmen.
It would be another 37 years before his huge Merida church was completed, built, as with most period Spanish buildings, from readily accessible limestone from the Maya structures of Tiho.
Today, the cathedral is one of the city's more prominent structures, facing west onto the landscaped Plaza Mayor, Merida's main square. The relatively plain rectangular structure is embellished with twin Moorish-style towers. Some of the severity of the edifice is softened by the warm yellow and ochre weathering hues of the recycled local limestone.
Interior ornamentation is limited, mainly due to several periods of looting during regional disturbances. An enormous crucifix fills the east wall behind the altar, while an historically significant painting shows local Mayan chieftains allying themselves with conquerors in 1542.
Merida's significant buildings are not limited to the cathedral. The oldest surviving residence, the 1543 Casa Montejo, also faces onto the Plaza Mayor and is noted for its elaborate plateresque portico and as the home of the founder's family.
Remnants of a number of colonial monasteries and churches are scattered throughout the historic district. The city is also noted for its eating places and craft stores, as well as its many manicured little parks and boulevards.
Merida is the hub city for an area filled with famous Mayan and colonial sites and is a popular base for those desiring to explore for example, the ancient ruins of Uxmal, Chichen Itza with its famous cenote (natural well), Kahba, Labna, Mayapan or Sayil.
Spanish religious structures or their remnants can be visited at Dzibilchaltun, Mani or Campeche and of course, students of old Yucatan can, between day trips, indulge themselves in the exotic tropical cuisine of the old city.
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.