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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.
Mamerto de la Ascensión Esquiú (Friar Mamerto Esquiú), was born on May 11, 1826, in an adobe house, in San José de Piedra Blanca, inCatamarca (Argentina). The weak health at birth caused him to be baptized urgently in his own home.
In his book on the life of the friar , the Catamarque historian, Mario Vera, states: “A family tradition refers to this health problem with which the child came into the world imposed on his mother to make a promise to Saint Francis of Assisi, to dress him in his habit to heal him. The pious maternal decision made Mamerto wear the Franciscan sayal from a very young age, clothing that marked his destiny until the moment of his death.”
Like every start we must head to his home, 15 minutes from the provincial capital. Covered by a temple dating back to 1941, we see three rooms with adobewalls, gable roof of cane and straw, 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 pivoting system made of hard wood, known as a box.
Inside there are objects that belonged to the Esquiú Medina family, such as the bed, two armchairs, a spinning wheel and two spinning lathes. Through the wide corridors of the temple that protects it, a pictorial series illustrates the different stages of the life of Mamerto de Ascension.
On August 27, 1935, by Law 12,191, the National Congress declared it a National Historical Monument.
From there, take 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 an image of Peruvian invoice of the Lord of Miracles and the baptismal font where he was baptized Fray Mamerto Esquiú- Yeah . 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 Patron, bishop of Salta. This represents a unique fact in the history of the Archbishopric of Latin America.
Originally built without a tower, the atrium is protected by the advance of the roof and side walls. Its roof that shelters the access extends to the right side forming an exterior gallery supported by six columns of smooth stem and Doric capitals.
Back to the San Fernando del Valle de Catamarca we head to the Franciscan Convent, but before we stop in 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 Riojan 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.
The convent dates back to 1693 . It has access through the corner of Esquiú and Rivadavia. Like the Stack of the Sanctuary of the Lord of Miracles in La Tercena, here the same three bishops studied.
The cloister holds the cell of Fray Mamerto Esquiú. Also remains of the colonial building, of 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 Father Esquiú's cell. It contains belongings of the friar, such as being a crucifix that he used to carry on his missions and that after his death was in the hands 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 Carpets Factory of Catamarca, where passages from the life of Fray Mamerto have been captured.
This museum was reauged in 2007. Among the objects that were restored is a solideo made of thread and silk, a wooden rosary , stockings, the basket in which Father Esquiú's heart was transferred from Córdoba to Catamarca; a stole . Also a replica of the uncorrupted heart that was stolen in 2008.
The tour ends at El Calvary, Space for Encounter and Prayer , which is 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 the year 1716, approximately. It then 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 of the Fathers”, were used by the Order as areas of cultivation 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 rests in Colonia Tortugas, today General Roca, in the department of Marcos Juárez, Córdoba.
San Fernando del Valle de Catamarca can be accessed by plane, only from the City of Buenos Aires. Various bus companies connect it with much 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 are connected to urban passenger transport . If the tour is done by own vehicle it is advisable to ask for a map at the local tourist office because there are countless 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.
Please note that commercial premises are closed at 13:00 and open at 18:00 until 22:00.
Cover photo: Carolina Cabrera.
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Publication Date: 27/06/2020
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