One of the many Catholic traditions related to the feast of Holy Week is the creation of "altars of veiling" or "Lenten altar". As an honor to the images of veneration that will make their processional journey through the streets of Antigua Guatemala, the Brotherhoods of the different Catholic and Parish Churches prepare Solemn Velaciones to the images of Jesus Nazareno; Jesus Buried; Virgen de Dolores and Virgen de Soledad, among others.

Most images that are placed in each altar, are the same that are placed on the processions we see passing by each street of Antigua Guatemala. The Altars of Vigil in some of the churches in the city are complemented with the allegory of the Gardens (“Huertos” as these are known), which are the same as the carpets you see out on Antigua Guatemala streets during Easter Week, these constitute real works of art prepared using multi-colored sawdust as a carpet that creatively represent religious motifs, biblical scenes, geometric figures, flora or fauna of Guatemala.

altars easter week antigua guatemala

Generally, the vegetable gardens (Huertos) are framed with a diversity of fruits and vegetables typical of Guatemala as an offering and prayer to obtain good harvests for the new season. At this time, the Atrial Cross of the Churches in Antigua Guatemala is ornamented with the Lenten (purple) color that represents conversion and penance.

The bells of some catholic churches in Antigua Guatemala echo two or three times in a row, every once in a while, thus motivating the approach of the parishioners for the Solemn Vigilance that takes place. The corozo pods are never missing in Antigua Guatemala during Holy Week, in churches and family homes alike. The corozo pods are never missing in Antigua Guatemala during Holy Week, in churches and family homes alike. The delicious smell of 'corozo' is considered the aroma of the religious festivity for Holy Week. 

altars easter week antigua

In Guatemala, the corozo is the flower of the palm with the same name. This palm grows in the areas near the coastlines in Guatemala. A corozo palm measures up to 15 meters high and produces 1 meter pods. Cutting down these pods is a task that must be done very carefully to avoid cracking, otherwise it could end up losing its aroma.

As in the Catholic churches of Antigua Guatemala, for the Holy Week the homes of the Guatemalan Catholics are also adorned with domestic altars that reproduced on a small scale, the altars created to exalt the Passion, death and resurrection of Christ. Doors and windows in Antigua Guatemala are adorned with purple color ribbons. 

Domestic altars have been made in homes of different cultures throughout history. The existence of altars in homes in the Mediterranean world is documented; like the Roman for example, from which Christianity inherited a large part of its organization, to later be applied in the homes of Spanish families; it eventually became a tradition in Antigua Guatemala. At present time, domestic altars receive a formal treatment of the most diverse styles, corresponding to the economic possibilities of the family that installs it, but all with great Catholic faith; from large altars with ancient figures and works of art of great value, to small altars with offerings of a few fruits. Inspired by the altars of the churches, the domestic altars have curtains, candles, flowers and especially images of the characters who intervened in the Passion of Christ.

altars easter week

As part of the tradition, some families change the figures in the altar during the days of Holy Week according to the events that correspond to the story told in the Bible. Decorative elements that accompany the altars in the family homes of Antigua Guatemala are the tablecloths to beautify the set, as well as carpets made in sawdust of colors, with natural flowers, fruits and bread, as it is styled in the “Huertos Antigüeños” (like the Easter Week Street Carpets). They also place small pots with plants planted, as is done with the small plants of germinated corn that are planted in small containers, as a natural element and that may have symbolic meaning because it is the sacred Mesoamerican plant.

The Easter Week Altars in homes and churches of Antigua Guatemala are an expression of the Catholic religiosity for the families and citizens in this colonial city, a tradition that continues over the years and is inherited to the new generations that preserve it.

altars easter week