Who can forget a delicious day of adventure or relaxation on the beaches of Puerto Vallarta? Who could not enjoy and appreciate the beautifully varied and colorful sunsets that every evening paint the hills and buildings of the harbor with a different color palette?
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Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish/Church.
Everything is so wonderful in the mind of spectator, they enjoy the scenery as the evening approaches, but a striking architectonic structure stands out among all the elements near the Malecon: a crown appears high up in the sky held up by a tower. This symbol represents the city and is used as an icon for the whole area, the crown and the Parish is located just a few blocks from the newly renovated seaside promenade, the Malecon. The locals also proudly call it the “Cathedral” of Puerto Vallarta.
The church itself really doesn’t have a well defined style; the crown is baroque and is purportedly a replica of the crown that Empress Carlota carried, consort of Maximilian of Habsburg, Emperor of Mexico in 1864, but it’s not the case, it was designed by the priest Don Rafael Parra Castillo, the same person that designed the church tower.
The Parish with its unusual combination of styles, ranging from Renaissance towers and the Neoclassical style of the main building, to the contemporary Mexican folk art details, in the end results in a mish-mash masterpiece resulting from the combination of diverse ideas and inspiration from everyone including the masons and bricklayers, priests and the people of Puerto Vallarta.
The temple started off in the early XX Century, as the first church in Puerto Vallarta. The initial idea was that it was to be a small chapel in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, this was the general idea until Father Francisco Ayala, around 1915, suggested that the building should be a tribute to the original Guadalupe Church in Mexico City, the Basilica of Guadalupe. With this as the guideline the chapel soon became a parish.
Like many other buildings in Mexico, construction was stopped during the Cristero War. The construction of an area for the chorus, complete with dome and upper body, was the starting signal for the next stage of the church’s development.
On the day of Virgin Guadalupe apparition’s 420th anniversary, according to records of the Catholic Church, the dome of the Parish was finally finished.
By 1952 the main tower was visible all over the city, but it was not until 1963 (1965 in the book by local historian Carlos Munguía Fregoso) that the crown, designed by Jose Esteban Ramirez Guareño, was placed on top of the tower. The cross and sphere on top of the crown are the work of another artist, Esteban Ávalos Haro. The external design of the towers was completed in 1987.
The temple is the heart of the Catholic faith of both residents and tourists, masses are conducted in Spanish, French and English, and a bilingual Mass is held on Saturdays and Sundays (more in our Church Section).
Bells tolling are a typical part of local city soundscape during the weekends, and are even more so during festivities honoring the Virgin of Guadalupe, during the first 12 days of the month of December.
Tastes, sounds, colors and the sea breeze in the air combine to captivate the senses of everyone who comes close.
Surely the church is now a symbol for this famous beach destination, a very Mexican Puerto Vallarta, that should not only be admired from the outside, but also from within.
In contrast to the religious images on painted wood, the marble altar, carved wooden confessionals and the image of the Virgin Guadalupe by Ignacio Ramirez, artist of our state of Jalisco, this building overflows with love, devotion and sacrifices, and must be added to your short list of places you absolutely must visit on your trip to Puerto Vallarta.