Iglesia de las Mercedes Church, Alajuela

Learn the history of the Iglesia de las Mercedes Church, in Alajuela, and admire its singular facade

Iglesia de las Mercedes Church, Alajuela
Iglesia de las Mercedes Church
© Roberto Fernández-Morales

The Iglesia de las Mercedes Church, in Grecia, in the province of Alajuela, is a singular reddish building that stands opposite to Grecia’s Park.

The church is devoted to the Mercy Virgin. The current building replaces the former wooden and tiled temple that was almost destroyed by an earthquake in 1888, thus, the canonry decided to build a new earthquake-proof church. For that purpose, the blueprints were sent to Belgium, where the reddish metal sheets and the columns that form the church were made.

The different parts of the church were shipped to Costa Rica, to the Limon Harbour, in 1893. The materials were sent to Alajuela by train, but the distance from Alajuela to Grecia (13 miles) was covered by cureñas, wooden carts that need three or four yokes of oxen in order to move. The journey was a hard work because the paths were in dire conditions and wet because of the wet season, but the area’s inhabitants helped the carts on their way to Grecia. The assembly of the metal sheets, to which stained glass windows, Italian marble and French mosaics were added, finished in 1912.

The result of this popular effort is a svelte neo-Gothic temple with two tall towers. It has a humble but clean and elegant interior, with three naves and two column rows. The most outstanding part is the central altar, which has a sculpture of the Mercy Virgin guarded inside an altarpiece decorated with elegant pinnacles and traceries.

It is nowadays considered to be one of the main symbols of Grecia. As a result, it is represented on the canton’s shield.

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Calle Central, Grecia, Alajuela province, Costa Rica.

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