The influence of the Catholic church is everywhere in South America.
There is a church near most squares and church bells can be seen and heard from most anywhere in most cities,towns or villages. Huge wooden doors open in the morning and stay open until dark. People come and go, take off their hats, kneel in the pews, say prayers for themselves and people they don’t know. Churches aren’t as integral in Uruguay as they used to be but even though secular government reigns here, churches have been maintained.
The normal thing I like to do when I travel do is not to look in guide books before I leave the house. My norm is to start walking, discover, research later. Chance creates the possibility for surprise , and, when I strike out without a destination in mind, I find things of interest that aren’t in the guide books.
It is quite by chance that I find the Cathedral San Fernando in Maldonado this particularly uneventful morning with my mind refreshingly blank.
Turning a corner, I have to say ihis church is the most renovated and pristine church I have seen in Uruguay. I have visited churches in Quito, Cuenca, Medellin, San Jose, Panama City and Montevideo. The pinkish color of these exterior walls stands in contrast to the blue sky, and the statue holding the cross at the top of the building looking down at me, as I come closer, has the same effect on me that statues of Zeus had for the Greeks. The cathedral, I learn inside, has an interesting history.
It was begun in 1801 and inaugurated in 1895 by a local man – Montevideo archbishop Mariano Soler, who was born in nearby San Carlos.
The Cathedral features the Virgin Del Carmen salvaged from a sunken ship off the nearby Isla de Lobos in 1829. It also has a dying Christ figure inside that washed ashore from unknown sources and found a home here.
The interior of the church gives a sense of what churches should convey – how small we are and how big the world is,how this universe was created by something much greater than us. As guests, in someone else’s house – we shouldn’t dirty the linens.
I sit in a pew and listen to silence.
I leave feeling better, and worse.