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On the Esquiú Trails in Catamarca

Fray Mamerto Esquiú is one of the main religious figures in the province of Catamarca, recently declared Blessed by Pope Francis. We take a tour of his life.

Esquiú casa natal

Mamerto de la Ascensión Esquiú (Fray Mamerto Esquiú), was born on May 11, 1826, in an  adobe house , in San José de Piedra Blanca, in  Catamarca  (Argentina). The weak health at birth caused him to be baptized urgently in his own house.

In his book on the life of the  friar  the catamarque historian, Mario Vera, states:  “A family  tradition  refers that the health problem with which the child came into the world imposed on his mother to make a promise to St. Francis of Assisi, to dress him with his habit to heal. The pious maternal decision made Mamerto dressed the Franciscan sayal from a very young age, clothes that marked his destiny until the moment of his death.” 

We present you the first sightseeing tour dedicated to the Franciscan

As every beginning we should head to his  native home,  15 minutes from the  provincial capital . Covered by a templete, dating from 1941, we observe three rooms with  adobe walls, cane and thatched gable roof, brick tile floors and carob wood doors. The main one denotes the great antiquity of the house because it does not have metal hinges and works with a hardwood pivoting system, known as  quicio .

Inside there are  objects  that belonged to the Esquiú Medina family, such as the bed, two armchairs, a spinning wheel and two winches for spinning. Through the wide corridors of the temple that protects it, a pictorial series illustrates the different  stages  of Mamerto's life of Ascension.

On August 27, 1935, by Law 12,191, the Congress of the Nation declared it a  National Historical Monument .

From there, head through RP 1 to the  Sanctuary of the Lord of Miracles , a  temple  built in 1793 by the spouses Luis Segura and Francisca Maria Cuba. It contains inside an image of the Peruvian bill of the  Lord of Miracles  and the baptismal font where  Fray Mamerto Esquiú was baptized. Two other bishops also received the first Eucharist there. Luis José Gabriel Segura and Cubas son of those who built the chapel. Gabriel was Bishop of Paraná. The other was Mariano de Jesús Rizo Patrón, bishop of  Salta . This represents a unique fact in the history of the archbishopric of Latin America.

    Esquiú Church Our Lady of Miracles

Originally built without tower, the  atrium  is protected by the advance of the roof and side walls. Its roof that shelters the access extends towards the right side forming an outer gallery supported by six columns of smooth stem and Doric capitals.

Already back to San Fernando del Valle de Catamarca we head to the  Franciscan Convent , but before we stop at the atrium of the Church of San Francisco. In the atrium of the temple a beautiful  sculpture  immortalizes Esquiú. The work was made in bronze by the Rioja sculptor Hernán Ayerza. Friar Mamerto Esquiú died as  bishop of the province of  Córdoba  , and as tradition indicated his remains rest in the Cathedral of that province. In October 2018, two relics arrived in his hometown. One is located in the  Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Valley  and the other in San Francisco.

    San Francisco Temple, Catamarca.Esquiú monument

 The Friar Mamerto Esquiú Convent and Museum 

The convent  dates from   1693  . It has access through the corner of Esquiú and Rivadavia. Like the Pile of the Shrine of the Lord of Miracles in La Tercena, here the same three bishops studied.

Fray Mamerto Esquiú's  cell  is preserved in the cloister. Also remains of the colonial building, sober  architecture  and wide adobe walls, the only testimony of the time in the city.

The  museum  was founded by Fray Mauro Acuña, in October 1996. It is located next to Padre Esquiú's cell. It contains  belongings  of the friar, such as being a  crucifix  he used to carry on his missions and which after his death became in the possession of the Father. Solano Cuello, who donated it to this  museum . There is a  tapestry  of approximately 4 x 2.60 m, made by the Fábrica del Alfombras de Catamarca, where passages from the life of Fray Mamerto have been embodied.

This museum was reinaugurated in 2007. Among the objects that were restored is a  solid made of  thread and silk, a wooden  rosary  , stockings, the  basket  in which Father Esquiú's heart was moved from Córdoba to Catamarca; a  stole  . Also a  replica of the incorrupt heart  that was taken away in 2008.

The tour ends at  El Calvario, Meeting and Prayer Space  located at kilometer seven of RP 4. The place is a site that was part of the plots belonging to the Society of Jesus established there in approximately 1716. Then it passed into the hands of the Franciscan Minor Order  when the    Jesuits    were expelled  by order of King Charles III in 1767. These plots, named “Chacarita de los Padres”, were used by the Order as  growing  areas for their maintenance and place of spiritual  retreats  . It has served for the shelter and lodging of many pastors, including San Francisco Solano and Fray Mamerto Esquiú. In the latter's cell there is a bed where the friar rest in Colonia Tortugas, today General Roca, in the department Marcos Juárez, Córdoba.

 Useful data 

San Fernando del Valle de Catamarca can be reached by  plane , only from the City of Buenos Aires. Various bus companies connect it with a large part of the most important cities in Argentina. For those who choose to travel by  car  , the RN 38 crosses the city from South to North.

All  destinations  described outside the city centre have access to urban passenger  transport  . If the tour is done by your own vehicle it is advisable to order a map at the local  tourist office  because there are countless number of natural and historical beauties in each of the sections.

The city has taxi service by radio call or at specific stops.

The  best time  to visit the city is in autumn or spring. Winters are raw but without snow. Summer is not advisable except for those who like to travel with more than 40º of room temperature.

Commercial premises close at 13:00 to open at 18:00 until 22:00.

Cover photo: Carolina Cabrera.

 We suggest you continue reading the following notes: 

El-turismo-catamarqueñoCatamarqueño tourism is reinventing itself in Santa Maria
Santa-María-de-YokavilSanta Maria de Yokavil, archaeology and rural tourism

Publication Date: 27/06/2020

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