Founded: 17th century. Style: baroque.
The Convent of Mercedarian Nuns, founded in the second half of the 17th century, is located beyond the city walls, opposite the Mazarelos gate (the only original city gate left standing). In fact, on leaving the walled enclosure, there is a wonderful view of the façade through this gate, which shows that its builders were interested in enriching the city perspectives.
The convent has a rectangular ground plan, which includes the church housed in the centre of the right-hand side of the complex. The façade reflects a simple design and great soberness, which is only broken by the belfry and the section marking the exterior of the church. At the centre of the latter there is a relief of the Annunciation (when the archangel Gabriel tells Mary that she will give birth to Jesus) surrounded by archbishops’ coats of arms. Above theses, a window bordered by strings of fruits, flowers and leaves, unequivocal motifs of the local baroque style.
It is very simple with a single nave. The transept stands out, being covered by a dome decorated with numerous strings of leaf motifs.
As in all enclosed convents, the most outstanding feature is the grating covering the two choirs, the upper one (for solemn occasions) and the lower one (for normal worship), where the Mercedarians attend liturgical offices.
The order’s coat of arms is present throughout the church.
The visual message
The images in the convent church represent the order’s favourite saints:
The main altarpiece, from the late 19th century, contains four principal images from the previous altarpiece: the lower ones are two Mercedarian saints (St. Peter Paschasius and St. Peter Armengol); the upper ones are St. Joseph and St. Joaquin, husband and father of the Virgin respectively.
In the centre, a relief of the Annunciation, the same theme that appears in the convent façade.
Everything in this altarpiece is related to the order’s history and, above all, to the Virgin Mary, who is highly venerated by all Mercedarians.
"The neoclassical altarpieces in the transept (the intersection between a church’s main nave and transversal one) contain the Virgin of Mercy with St. Peter Nolasco (at the moment when Mary inspires him to create the Order) and, in another one, the founder himself helping some captives. The upper circular adornments represent the founder taking holy orders and St. Raymond Nonnatus, one of the most famous Mercedarian saints, who was tortured during captivity.
The Discalced Mercedarians in Santiago
There are currently 17 nuns in this convent. Apart from prayer and domestic chores, including looking after the church, they wash and iron for the Church and accept orders for embroidery and table linen.
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