Colonial Church
Colonial Church
4.5
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4.5
4.5 of 5 bubbles120 reviews
Excellent
52
Very good
55
Average
12
Poor
0
Terrible
1

Jeff K
Pittsburgh, PA2,133 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jan 2023 • Couples
The prior review does a great job of providing a detailed description of the church. The most interesting part of the church to me was the memorial for the Oklahoma priest who had served the community. He was killed in the civil war and was honored as a martyr. Our tour guide told us that his heart was at the base of the memorial. Kind of creepy but interesting, nonetheless.
Written 21 January 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

maritimeexplorer
Nova Scotia, Canada4,126 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2020
As most people know, Santiago is the Spanish equivalent of St. James and this rather unprepossessing looking church is, in English, Saint James the Apostle Church. It dates all the way back to the 1540's and lies in the shadow of the mighty Atitlan volcano which rises to 11,598 feet (3,535 metres) which in the Rockies would be a good sized mountain. The steps you see are actually over a thousand years old and once led to a Mayan temple which the Christians of course destroyed to build the church atop in an act of religious oneupmanship. But it didn't actually work as I entered what is one of the most fascinating churches I've ever visited anywhere.

Tony our guide took us on a tour of the interior which has more than a few things of passing interest starting with the various saints decorated by groups that are unique to Guatemala, the cofradias. These are religious brotherhoods that date back to the Spanish conquest and were originally intended to help spread Catholicism and stamp out native beliefs. Instead they have morphed into something similar to the krewes of Louisiana who each have their own distinct colours and symbols. The entire church is lined with these brightly coloured figures.

Sometimes things are not as they first seem to appear. I've included a photo of the pink cofradia. But take a closer look at the Virgin Mary. She's got two babies, not just the usual one. Here's where things get tricky and try as I might, I can find no one coherent explanation for the two babies. Here is Tony's version. The second baby is actually Judas. Yes, you read that right. For Mayans, the death of their religion at the hands of the Spanish priests was not cause for celebration or a great awakening, but rather an execration. The one figure from Christianity that many of them could embrace was Judas who was responsible for getting Christ killed and thus in their eyes, more powerful than Jesus. There are umpteen versions of the story and they are all bizarre.

The altar of the church is fairly standard, but what's behind it is not. The apse has some beautiful woods carvings and a very nice trinity which at first glance looks like an old guy on a motorized scooter.

One a more serious note, there is an important monument near the church entrance that is worth examining and learning the story of Father Stanley Rother. He was an American priest who came to Santiago Atitlan and during the civil war, defied the authorities and stood up for the Mayan people that were frequently the target of massacres during this time. For that, he paid with his life and has been recognized as a genuine martyr in every sense of the that word.

Although his body is buried in his native state of Oklahoma, Stanley Rother's heart is buried here and that seems appropriate because he gave his heart and his life to the Tz'ujutil people. While I might not agree with religious proselytizing, no one can dispute the goodness of this man's intentions to help the poor and downtrodden. In this world where Catholic priests are just as often seen as predators rather than protectors, it is comforting to know that that some truly follow the true teachings and example of Jesus, even if it costs them their lives.
Beside the church is the rectory and Tony points out the very spot where Rother was murdered by a government backed death squad in 1981. Sadly that was not the end of the violence. In 1990, eleven more people were killed in Santiago Atitlan by the army which had a base nearby. That event caused such an international uproar that the base was closed and since then life in this small place has returned to a semblance of normalcy.
Written 10 May 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

brewski59
Denver, CO250 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Jan 2020
The church goes back many centuries, and the history seems to seep throughout the building. But the story of the priest who was murdered during the genocide of the indigenous Mayans was a moving tribute, and made the visit even more meaningful. Well work a visit.
Written 9 February 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Hailsk2411
1,287 contributions
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Dec 2019 • Solo
Bizarre mix of catholic and Mayan religious traditions. Interesting to see and learn about. Not what you would traditionally expect in church! Take a look!
Written 12 January 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

RobVera
Tucson, AZ452 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jan 2019
You take a boat to get there. The town sits on a bay of Lake Atitlán between three volcanoes, San Pedro, Atitlán, and Tolimán volcanoes. The majority of the residents are indigenous Mayans. A colorful market on Fridays and Sundays. It was fun to stroll through the market and observe the spectacularly dressed Mayan women & a few Mayan men.

Near the central plaza is the Iglesia Parroquial Santiago Apóstol, which was built between 1572 and 1581. Dozens of statues of saints line the walls. The saints, which are dressed in indigenous clothes, are a unique fusion of Catholicism and Mayan motifs. The church’s three altarpieces represent the three volcanoes that surround the town. These volcanoes play a prominent part in local creation myths and are believed to protect the village.

Several small shops for shopping, art shops, few places to eat and several people along the streets trying to sell you items. TAKE CASH!
Written 19 August 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Deric N
Tring, UK28 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2019 • Family
Incredibly fortunate to be in Santiago Atitlan on 25th July, the feast day for St James the Apostle, or Santiago if you are Spanish.
Written 26 July 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

DP1066
Hastings, UK609 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2019 • Couples
This is one of the most memorable churches I have visited with its mix of Mayan and Catholic culture. The altarpiece is original dating from the 16th century, as is the facade. Much of the church is a reconstruction following the 1976 earthquake, but has been tastefully done.
Written 23 March 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Marek M
Czestochowa, Poland173 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2019 • Couples
Really worth to see exceptionally ornaments and very interesting figures in the church. at all - one more colonial church, achieved by high steps, fully of local tradition.
Written 10 March 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Leigh-Traveler2015
Birmingham, AL1,259 contributions
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Jan 2019 • Friends
We’ve been to so many churches across the small towns and villages of Guatemala. I would say this one is just like most of the others, therefore the average score. If you haven’t been in dozens then go as it may be more interesting to you.
Written 19 January 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Cathy D
New Paris, OH11 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Nov 2018 • Business
The highlights are many. If this is your first time in Santiago, and you are an English speaker, I recommend a guide. Dolores, if she is available, or Roulando. You won't need a last name. It's a very small town. At the back of the church you will see a shrine to murdered Priest, Father Stan Rother, declared last year to be the first American martyr by the Catholic church. If you stand to the side, you will see the number of times the marble marker has been touched. The Mable is actually worn down in the middle of his name by his Mayan name, between his English name Francis, and his Mayan name, Aplas. I have been in Santiago many times, and the church is a must see.
Written 11 November 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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