Like most countries in Latin America, Venezuela’s history has always intertwined with the history of the Roman Catholic Church. Catholicism is the most popular religion in the entire continent and the people from each country are very devout to their faith. With such a close bond with the catholic faith, it’s no wonder why so many cities throughout South America have cathedrals and so many smaller churches.
A city that is not the exception to this rule is Barquisimeto. Like most major cities in Venezuela, it has its own cathedral. Formally known as Nuestra Señora del Carmen’s Cathedral, this beautiful building has a lot of history. The structure that we see standing today has very little to do with what used to be before. It was originally built as a Franciscan chapel in 1636 by then Governor Francisco Nuñez Melena. This was way before Venezuela’s independence and the chapel was built to serve as the Cathedral of Barquisimeto. Sadly, in 1812, an earthquake shook the city of Barquisimeto and brought down the whole chapel leaving nothing but rubble. It wasn’t until 1865 that it was decided to rebuild the chapel. Then in 1950, almost a hundred years after its reconstruction, another earthquake, even stronger than the first one, struck the city. This time, only the bell tower and the clock were left standing. The city council at the time considered demolishing what was left of the building but finally agreed on rebuilding the entire site and make a new cathedral on the spot.
It was Jahn Bergkamp who served as the architect for this building. Its modern design was considered wild and strange but now we see that it was just ahead of its time. In 1968, the citizens of Barquisimeto welcomed the new Cathedral with a bit of apprehension due to its bizarre design. However, little by little the people of Barquisimeto grew to love and admire the beauty of this structure and it is now one of the main landmarks of the city and it is considered an architectural wonder. Seen from a certain distance, it looks like a flower upside down. We’ve mentioned before the importance of flowers in Venezuelan culture, especially orchids, which are the national flower.
Due to its peculiar shape, building the cathedral took a lot of work and delicate measurement. The bell tower of the cathedral is the stem of the flower while the petals are the roof. The ceiling of the Cathedral is composed of acrylic panels supported by a network of steel wires. The Cathedral of Barquisimeto is but one of the many amazing buildings and examples of modern and eccentric architecture in the city. Make sure to pay a visit next time you’re there. Even if it’s not to pray, you can always admire the structure.
I Love Barquisimeto