Basilica de la Merced
As some readers may have gleaned over time, neither of the authors of this blog are particularly religious, to put things gently. However, we both enjoy churches, both abandoned and not. The architecture speaks to a time when people would spend extravagantly and immodestly (unchristianly?) on places of worship that would make it clear to all comers just how pious they were. The pattern is very prevalent to this day here in Chicago, were successive immigrant groups pool their money as a community and build a church of their own. (This makes for some curious juxtapositions over time as demographics change: Czech churches now with wholly Mexican parishes, and staid German Lutheran churches on the South Side redone as vibrant Southern Baptist or COGIC denominations.) Buenos Aires is no stranger to this dynamic, as the beautiful Basilica de la Merced shows. In the heart of the Centro, or downtown, this church is now surrounded by office and bank buildings. Though Argentina remains a staunchly Catholic country, I’m not sure how many people live close enough to this basilica to sustain a large parish. When I visited on a weekday, the doors were open, but visitors few. I was lucky enough to get the lone Porteño engrossed in prayer.
When Byzantine emperors would build their churches in Constantinople, it was common to have a mosaic depicting the self same church being presented to Jesus or Mary by that emperor within that church. Though I can’t say for sure, it seems something similar is going on here with the two Spanish noblemen gesturing towards Mary within the altar.