Yolkobsens hopped on a tuc tuc and bumped and jostled our way over dusty roads to get from Antigua Guatemala to San Filipe de Jesus Guatemala. This pueblo, 2 kilometers from Antigua Guatemala, is best known for its early 19th century yellow neo-gothic church, which sits in the centre of the village.
It’s worth a trip to San Filipe de Jesus Guatemala just to get a look at the this small church, distinctive for a number of reasons. It’s neo-gothic architecture sets it apart from its baroque neighbors in nearby pueblos, towns and cities. As well, since it wasn’t built until 1819 it’s much younger and lighter in step than the more ponderous Spanish colonial churches, which were established starting in the early 16th century.
Though it has the distinctive buttercup colour, which somewhat parallels the palette choice at La Merced Church, this church’s more delicate character is obvious to the visitor at first sight. Neo-gothic expressions include a bell tower and spire, accented with pointed arched openings which reveal the large bells. All of this gives the church a lighter “verticality” (aka makes you look up) and presence than the baroque and sterner houses of worship that dominate the religious architecture in most of colonial Guatemala. Notably, the clock in the tower keeps perfect time.
The neo-gothic style is carried throughout the church interior, with pointed arched windows that let in more light than the classic baroque models favored by the 16th and 17th century Spanish architects. Though the inside of the church doesn’t have vaulted ceilings or the classic gothic columns, it does incorporate the “Latin Cross,” which comprises a long nave and a transverse arm, which recreate a cross motif for the structure.
The church is also famous for its carved wooden Jesus, which dominates the front interior. This figure, which dates back to 1620, draws many pilgrims to it every year on the first day of Lent.
No matter how man pueblos we visit, we find that each has its own character and signature adaptation on the main plaza. In this case, directly across and around the church are venders hawking mostly tourist wares that you can buy pretty much everywhere in this part of Guatemala.
There’s a lively food court in among the candy and souvenir stands. Yolkobsens tried a fried bread/donut confection dressed with warm sugar water, which seemed to have tincture of anise-like taste. We recommend them for the experience. Not too sugary and definitely fills a snack gap if you are in that in-between-meals state of peckishness.
There’s a good silver jewelry factory in another part of town. We had to ask several people where it was. We suggest you do the same if you are attempting this solo and without a bus tour guide. The store and factory were locked up and the wares under cover, since they weren’t expecting tourist hordes that Saturday morning. We were glad we made the effort because Mrs. Y couldn’t resist a really pretty pair of turquoise jade and silver earrings that were purchased at a very reasonable price.
If you are facing the church then next walk down the road to your left where you will find Jades San Filipes. You might have to ask someone at the nearby tienda to get the owner for you if you are there at low traffic hours.
One of San Filipe de Jesus Guatemala’s great drawing cards is it’s restaurants. But since Yolkobsens were there on a Saturday morning, it was not the optimum timing for dining. Next time we will pick a later clocking in and go for another taste of the town. We’ll report back to you on our findings.