If you take a straight line and walk through Granada along Calle Real Xalteva from west to east, passing through the main plaza and continue along La Calzada, you will pass four dramatic churches. Each one has a history and it is worthwhile just spending sometime looking at the architecture if nothing else.
The first is Iglesia Xalteva itself. The church was named after the native people who inhabited the area when the first Spanish colonists arrived. The church was used for a time as a fortress and was destroyed in the civil war of 1890. It was not long before rebuilding began in 1895 to 1898 and construction was finally completed in 1921.
Several blocks down the road you come to the older Iglesia Merced. This is one of the oldest churches in Central America, the original building dating back to 1534. But like so many other structures in this now peaceful city it has been ravaged by civil unrest. It is quoted in 1853 as being the most beautiful building in Granada. All that was to change as it was destroyed in yet another civil war in 1854. The main tower was completely razed and the church was rebuilt in 1862 with additional changes occurring up to the 1950’s. Iglesia Merced is wonderful mix of colonial and baroque style architecture.
As you enter the plaza, the dominant feature towering above all others is the Cathedral of Granada. This impressive bright buff yellow edifice dates back to 1583 and has undergone a series of changes that have been forced upon it. It was destroyed in fire of 1856 which was started by the retreating troops of the insanely evil American filibuster William Walker. A stuttered rebuilding in the neoclassical style was finally completed in 1915.
A walk down the pleasantly relaxed La Calzada will have you finally arriving at Iglesia Guadeloupe. It was originally built in 1624 to serve as a cloister. As with much of Granada, once again it has historical links to the criminal William Walker, who used it for eighteen days as a bastion for his mercenaries in 1856 when like so much of the city it was damaged in the ensuing fire. The damage was repaired but not fully completed until 1965.
Finally if you take the time to walk several blocks over to the north you will find Convento San Francisco. One of Granada’s original buildings, it dates back to 1524 when it was a constructed with wooden walls and a straw roof. This burned down in 1685 and was rebuilt more soundly in the romantic style. But it did not escape Walkers inferno of 1856. In 1885 the romantic interior was given a neoclassical façade. Until recently the front of San Francisco had been painted in a gorgeous shade of Wedgewood Blue with white detailing but the powerful affect of the sun’s rays has somewhat bleached the color now.
If you ever find yourself in Granada, take a quiet sunny morning to walk the line between the churches, it takes no more than an hour or two, longer if you want to enter and take in some of the history. It is a morning well spent.