Havana’s Our Lady La Merced Church (35 Photos)
Photo Feature by Irina Pino
HAVANA TIMES – If you are a foreign visitor, someone who is passing through, or simply a person of faith, I invite you to visit the Our Lady of Mercy Church, located at Cuba and Merced streets, in the San Isidro neighborhood of Old Havana.
Founded in 1630, it was completed in 1867, thanks to the tribute of counts, marquis, and wealthy families who contributed to its construction. It is currently being restored.
A baroque-style temple, it has three naves separated from each other by enormous semicircular arches. It has no bell tower.
The interior decoration, vaults, murals, and paintings, were made by important 19th century plastic artists, including Manuel Lorenzo, Esteban Chartran, Didier Petit, and Juan Crossa.
For Cubans, the Virgin of Mercy is the Virgin of Las Mercedes and Obatalá. Likewise, she is called the Queen of Peace and the Lady clothed with the sun. She is represented with a white cloak, scapular, broken chains, and shackles.
She arose from one of the invocations of the Virgin Mary. In 1218, San Pedro Nolazco had a vision of this virgin, which prompted him to create the order to redeem Christians who suffered captivity.
In the church you can also observe other saints and virgins, such as Santa Ana, the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre and San Rafael Arcángel.
But there is a figure that commands everyone’s attention, it is Santa Flora de Cordoba, the woman lying inside an urn. Born in the 9th century, this martyr came from a family that had two faiths, her mother was a Christian, and her father was a Muslim. When her father dies, her brother forces the sisters to convert to his religion, but Flora, unwaveringly devoted to God, resists, for which she is persecuted and tortured for not wanting to renounce her belief.
For a time, she remained hidden by some clerics, until she decided to surrender. A court judges her for apostasy and she finally has her throat cut. Her head is sent to the church of Acisclo (where she hid to pray) and her body is thrown into the Guadalquivir river.
They say that part of her remains, and her blood, were brought in 1863 by P. Geronimo Viladas, founder of the Paules in Cuba.
There is much to see in this peaceful place. With my photo feature I give you a small sample of the solemn beauty and seclusion that is experienced in the religious site, but the ideal is to see it with your own eyes.