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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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Publication Date: 27/06/2020
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