Founded as Santa Maria de la Nueva Valladolid de Comayagua by orders emitted by the Conqueror of Yucatan, Don Francisco de Montejo, who instructed his captain, Alonso de Caceres to establish a city in place that was equidistant between both oceans, and the cities of Guatemala and Leon (Nicaragua). Thus, on the 8th of December 1537, Captain Caceres took possession of the land where the city of Comayagua is built today. The strategic location of the city allowed it to become an important community in a short time, thus, receiving the title of city from King Charles I in 1557. The political and religious powers quickly settled here making of the city the political and cultural center of the province. After Spain granted Honduras its independence, Comayagua became the capital of the brand new State of Honduras.
Today, Comayagua is of very easy access. The main highway connecting the two most important cities in the country, San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa passes just outside Comayagua. It is located about 50 miles north of Tegucigalpa and 90 miles south of San Pedro Sula. With an average altitude of 1,800 feet above sea level, its climate is rather warm during the day, but comfortably refreshing at night. It is located in the middle of a large valley surrounded by high mountains.
The city itself is built according to the Old Spanish tradition, a square central park and streets laid out in a square fashion. Old homes and buildings are silent testimony of the cities old heritage. Amongst the most impressive buildings are the Comayagua Cathedral, the churches of La Merced, La Caridad, San Francisco and San Sebatian, as well as the bishops residence and the Museum of Anthropology building, which in its time, was actually the presidential home, as well as the site of the National Congress of Honduras. Homes where independence heroes such as Jose Trinidad Cabañas and Francisco Morazan lived are still standing and have been declared national monuments.
The rich cultural and historical heritage that Comayagua has to offer has attracted the attention of the Spanish Cooperation Agency, which in a joint effort with the Municipality of Comayagua and the Honduran Institute of Anthropolgy and History have begun an ambitious restoration project to rescue the city. The first big project was to totally facelift the central park. The result is what is probably the most beautiful park in the country. The facades of all the old buildings have been painted with combining colors, and the owners of new buildings have been encouraged to adapt their facades to match the colonial atmosphere of the city. The results have been outstanding. The look of the downtown of Comayagua has been duly transformed and city now has regained its unique charm. New wood signs at the businesses throughout the city have also made a huge difference to the previous neon signs that were to be seen throughout the streets.
Perhaps the most outstanding feature as far as tourism is concerned are the unique celebrations that take place during Easter Week. Beginning with Palm Sunday, and ending on Easter Sunday, the city literally transforms itself with religious fervor that marks the celebrations and processions that take place at the different catholic Churches as well as the streets and plazas. The most outstanding of the events are the colorful sawdust carpets that are made overnight on Holy Thursday in preparation for the procession reliving the passion of Christ, which takes place on Good Friday. More than 20 colorful sawdust carpets are prepared by different families and institutions, the purpose is to decorate the trail where the procession will pass, in an effort to make the trip less painful for Christ. Although the life of the carpets is very brief, they will be trampled by the procession only a few hours after having been completed, the effort put into the design and workmanship is the culmination of months of dedicated work.
Amongst the most outstanding processions, we can list the following:
Procession of our Lord of the Donkey. Starting at 8:00 a.m. a unique and peculiar procession takes place, which commemorates the triumphal entrance of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem. A life size image, built with moving legs is mounted on a live donkey and led throughout the streets of the city followed by a large crowd that joyously waves their palm leafs. A live band adds a harmonic touch to the celebration.
The Last Dinner A representation of the last dinner is staged at the Church of San Francisco.
The Capture of Christ By 10:30 p.m. a procession recalling the capture of Christ takes place. Departing from the Church of La Merced, Christ who is dressed in white and has his eyes blindfolded is led throughout the city accompanied by a large crowd holding thousands of lit candles. The procession ends at the cathedral in the wee hours.
Sawdust Carpets After almost three months of hard work, at around midnight artisans take the streets and start a marathon session of up to 10 hours in order to elaborate these fine carpets made of colored sawdust and salt. By 9:00 in the morning, a total of 24 different, and very unique sawdust carpets are ready to be fully appreciated. Their life though is brief, by 10:30 p.m. the procession of the via crucis will inevitably destroy them as it passes over them!
Via Crucis Procession Probably one of the most solemn moments of the Easter Week celebration At 10:30, the procession departs from the church of San Francisco, and following the streets decorated with the carpets stops at each of the 14 stations of the cross, each represented by life representations. The procession finalizes in front of the cathedral with the act of crucifixion.
Procession of the Holy Sepulcher Departing from the Cathedral at 5 in the evening, an image of Christ in an urn will once again roam the city’s streets, accompanied by seven very young girls dressed as angels all carrying signs with the 7 phrases said by Christ before having died on the cross. Six more girls also dressed as angels escort the urn. As night falls the multitude lights thousands of candles and finally returns to the Cathedral by 9:00 p.m.
Procession of the Resurrection Departing at 8:00 a.m. from the Church of La Caridad, images of the virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, Veronica, San John and Saint Peter start a trip throughout the city looking for the Resurrected Christ. A block and half before getting the cathedral Mary Magdalene separates herself from the group and finds the image of the resurrected Christ which slowly departs the cathedral. Mary Magdalene rushes to tell the rest of the group that she has found Christ, who is saluted with reverence. Finally Mary and Jesus slowly walk towards each other and meet halfway down the block. The church bells start tolling and the images head towards the church, where the Easter Sunday mass begins.
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