Thursday, October 25, 2007

A visit to the San Felipe Fortress and La Popa

There is a cruiser net each morning at 8 AM. Scott is the moderator on Thursdays. It serves the community like a bulletin board with announcements of social activities, new arrivals and departures, weather and "treasures of the bilge" (things for sale or barter). One woman organized a half day tour of the huge fort, San Felipe Fortress, and La Popa with Duran Duran, a local official guide. Twelve of us were picked up at the marina in a large van. The fortress is the largest defensive complex erected by the Spanish in the new world. Construction began in 1536 and was completed one hundred years later. It was taken once by pirates under the french Baron De Pointis in 1697 but resisted all the efforts of Sir Francis Drake when he arrived with a huge navy. This has been restored beautifully, including many tunnels far underground. At the base is a bronze statue of two old shoes that commerates the Cartagena poet Luis Carlos Lopez's sonnet comparing the memory of present Cartagena to that of the past, once heroic and now affectionately loved like a pair of old shoes.

La Popa or La Candelaria Convent was originally built in 1606 by the Augustine fathers. It was built to house the image of "Virgin de la Candelaria", found in a house in the city in a vision from God. She is now the patron saint of Cartagena. It is built on the highest hill in the area and the view from the top is very beautiful. Some monks live there still. Much of it was destroyed over the years when the monks were expelled several times by various political leaders. >>
The chapel contains an elaborate alter piece with the famous statue which has many miracles attributed to it. Several cases contain hundreds of silver charms sent by individuals who have been healed by the statue. The charms show the body part that was healed - legs seem to predominate. At present they are trying to raise money to stabilize the structure and relocate the families living on the sides of the hill without water and sewerage connections. This has caused much erosion and the resulting mud slides. The cloister is really lovely with double arches and a well in the center of the garden.

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