December 31, 2016

Photo Essay: To the Bell Tower

In Havana, there are five historic squares, each plaza devoted to its own cause: Old Town, the revolution, arms, St. Francis, and the cathedral.

The cathedral in question at Plaza de la Catedral is that of San Cristóbal—or Saint Christopher, supposedly named after Christopher Columbus, who was not, in fact, a saint.

While our guide tried to direct our attention around the 18th century plaza, a former swamp that once functioned as a navy yard...

...I couldn't take my eyes off of that great, baroque church...

...or its bell towers.

Made of locally-quarried limestone, its ornate exterior appears actually to be that of two different cathedrals...

...because its two towers were built during different time periods—and only one of them by the Jesuits before they were expelled from Cuba in 1767.

 The Franciscans finished the job over the course of the next decade.

It's unusual to see a monument in the baroque style to have such an asymmetrical facade...

...and even more unusual to be able to spot so many marine fossils in the surface of the stone.

The inside of the cathedral has been stripped down to a more neoclassical style, with colored light filtering through the stained glass and ornamenting the stone pillars and vaulted ceilings.

As I had been gazing up at its beauty, a man (who I presumed to be a local) asked me, "Do you like our cathedral?" And when I said yes, he told me, "You know, you can go up into the tower..." I told him I didn't think I had the time. After all, most of the stops on our tour of Havana were all too brief.

I was about to rejoin the group in the plaza when I caught wind of one of my fellow American tourists convincing the bell tower ticket guy to accept her U.S. dollar in place of a Cuban convertible peso. I actually didn't have any Cuban or U.S. currency on me (having brought Euros to skip the fees at the foreign currency exchange), so I scrambled to borrow a dollar from someone and ran back to plead with him on my own behalf, "Por favor..."

I knew that climbing that tower would make me late, but I didn't care.

After all, I could still see my group from up there.

I could call out to them if I wanted to.

But I was too busy gazing out at the other tower, the clock tower...

...and examining the bells in my tower as I climbed as high as I could get...

...until I reached the top.

Over the course of my life, I've spent too much time gazing up at towers rather than climbing up into them.

Yes, all that climbing does make me late sometimes. But if anybody's looking for me, you can just look up to the highest height, peel back the curtain, and step into the darkest corner—and there, I'll be.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Climbing to the Top of The Cathedral of St. John the Divine
Photo Essay: Brooklyn's Haunted German Cathedral - Clock Tower, Crypt & Rathskeller
Photo Essay: The View from Above Balboa Park's Former Expo Grounds

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