Chapel of the Tercera Orden
One of the places I'd been hoping to visit one day was Cuernavaca, a city 85 kms (53 miles) south of Mexico City, so when I heard Lynda Martinez was organising a trip there, I signed up straightaway. A comment of hers got me raring to go: "You are going to go crazy with your camera there!" And that's exactly what happened.... I'll let my photos tell the story of our day out.
We drove to Cuernavaca along the excellent D-95 highway, passing lots of wooded areas. The original name of the city in Nahuatl was Cuauhnáhuac (which looks a mouthful but is more or less pronounced "Kwownáwac") meaning "surrounded by or close to trees", but since the Spanish conquistadores couldn't pronounce it, they named the city Cuernavaca. The volcano Popocatépetl lies quite close too.
At this point, we passed into the State of Morelos. Cuernavaca is the capital and largest city of Morelos and now has a population of more than 600,000.
A sign seen as we came down into the city. This place is famous for its Revolutionary fighters, especially Emiliano Zapata who was born in Morelos, but was also where the Aztec Emperors and Spanish rulers had their summer palaces. Wealthy residents of Mexico City built mansions here due to the pleasant climate. Today many foreigners come here to learn Spanish.
Our first stop was at the fortified Palacio de Cortés, built by the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés in 1526 on the site of a former Aztec pyramid, to be used as his residence and administrative offices. It is the oldest civil building still standing in New Spain, with battlements and thick walls. Apparently it has also been a warehouse, a prison, military barracks and a State Government Palace. Today it is a museum recounting the history of the Sate of Morelos and Mexico.
Lynda giving us a few explanations before we went in. It was a beautiful sunny day and there were very few people around.
Arches at the back and front of the museum give wonderful views of the surrounding city.
Some of the pre-Hispanic exhibits
When the Spanish arrived in Mexico, among other animals, they brought the horse.
In the inner courtyard you can see some of the pre-Hispanic remains
An Aztec codex with the names of different towns and villages using symbols.
View of Cuernavaca Cathedral from the museum
The Palacio de Cortés also has some interesting murals painted by Diego Rivera which narrate the history of the Conquest and the Revolution.
Section of the mural - on the left you can see the sugar cane production at the haciendas, set up by the Spanish.
Looking down over the square outside. As it was mid-week, it was very quiet. Weekends are particularly busy when many people come from Mexico City to enjoy clear skies and a smaller city!
Our coffee stop where Lynda began to tell us a bit of background information about the next place we were about to visit.
As we walked to the next place, we saw colourful buildings and trees everywhere.
A peppermint green building
With its sunny tropical climate, Cuernavaca is famous for its luxuriant vegetation and flora.
Our second visit was to the Robert Brady Museum, a real feast for the eyes!
Robert Brady was an American artist from Iowa, who settled here in Cuernavaca in 1962. He spent his life collecting art and other artifacts from all around the world and when he died in 1986, he bequeathed his house to the city as long as they didn't change anything.
The entrance to the museum-house, Casa de la Torre, left exactly as when Brady lived in it.
The colours, decoration and collections are exquisite... you can tell he was an artist!
The house and its grounds were originally part of the Franciscan monastery and back onto the walled Cathedral.
Lynda, our guide, in pink and the other five girls on the tour
A tastefully-decorated sitting room
Brady had bright cushions everywhere in the house
One of his collections of masks
The beautiful garden and pool
A shady porch area seen from the dining room
The bright cheerful kitchen
A yellow-coloured sitting room with an original painting by Frida Kahlo on the walls
The so-called "Oriental Room" for guests
A group picture outside in the gardens
View of the street outside with brightly coloured buildings
We passed a school where there were lots of vendors waiting to sell food to the children when they came out
A big red building opposite the Cathedral
Our third visit was to Cuernava's Cathedral complex, a fortified walled compound enclosing the main Cathedral and three other chapels, one at each corner. In the middle of the atrium are beautiful gardens and shady walkways.
Sign which reads: "Cathedral of Cuernavaca. Founded by Franciscan monks in the 16th Century. Begun in 1529. Finished in 1552. Named "La Asunción de Maria". The frescos on the side walls of the nave depict the martyrdom of the Mexican saint Philip of Jesus. It became the Cathedral Of Cuernavaca in 1891."
Beautiful flowering trees in the gardens
The Cathedral, once the Monastery of La Asunción, was the fifth monastery/church in New Spain. It was built by Hernán Cortés to double up as a fortress.
Getting some interesting perspectives!
Lynda telling our group about the Cathedral at the bottom of the tower
An unusual feature is the "Open Chapel" or Capilla Abierta, one of the oldest parts, where they could say mass for hundreds of natives who were accustomed to worshipping outdoors, never inside.
The enormous buttresses of the "Open Chapel"
The top part of the tower was rebuilt after being toppled by an earthquake in 1882.
One of the wooden doors
The interior of the Cathedral underwent several restoration and renovation processes
Frescos along the side walls, discovered during the renovation work in the 1960s, depicting the martyrdom of St Philip of Jesus in Japan.
Learning about the history of this Cathedral
Looking out towards the gardens
The interior is now fairly modern
More frescos on the other side wall
The pink and white façade of the Chapel of the Tercera Orden, standing inside the walled compound
Side view of the chapel, with its concave façade, built in 1694.
Detail of the figures on the façade
The very ornate gold altar, quite a surprise for such a small chapel
A quiet place for explanations
Another chapel, the Chapel of Santa Cruz, with a different architectural style, also in the grounds
We had a quick look around the rather bare inside.
Looking out towards the Chapel of the Tercera Orden standing opposite this chapel and right next to the main entrance,
More church buildings can be seen up the street
There are many gardens in the City of Eternal Spring, nickname given to Cuernavaca by Alexander von Humboldt, the German explorer and naturalist in the 19th Century.
Heading back towards Mexico City, along the pine-forested highway.
We went past lots of fields with hay drying in the sun
The open skies are much clearer here, something missing from DF - a picturesque way to end our very interesting tour.
Now I'm looking forward to the next trip to Cuernavaca to discover a bit more about this city and visit its markets!