January 23, 2013
colombia trip: colonial monasteries
During our time in the gorgeous town of Villa de Leyva (Boyaca, Colombia), we had the chance to visit two monasteries. The Monasterio de la Candelaria, was the first Augustinian monastery established in Latin America. It opened in 1604 and it became home to inhabitants of the region who used to live in caves. This monastery is still active and there is a small portion which is cordoned off for visitors.
The second monastery we visited is called Monasterio de Santo Ecce Hommo (Latin for "this is man") is a Dominican convent established in 1620. This monastery was occupied by rebel forces during the war for independence from Spain in the 1810's. Today, the monastery is open for spiritual retreats and guided tours.
Both monasteries maintain many of their original floors, doors, and walls, so it is quite the treat exploring it, entering different rooms and walking through its long corridors. I felt a strange sensation when entering one of the rooms (dizziness, nausea, and pressure on my forehead) and could not bring myself to step in. I later found out that the room I was about to enter was used for funerals and some people think it is "haunted".
Overall, it was a wonderful experience visiting these monasteries. I have a soft spot for Spanish colonial architecture so I was giddy being in 400 year old buildings where you feel time stands still. Both places have a display of antiques (400 year old books, paintings, and artifacts used for farming and domestic chores) which puts my little collection of mid-century antiques to shame.