Around the World in 80 Clicks

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Honduras: Comayagua

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Comayagua > Honduras > Americas

[Visited: January 2005]

Perhaps I was too impatient, perhaps I was right following my intuition, but I just wasn't very impressed by Tegucigalpa when I arrived. So, after walking around for a few hours, I decided to catch a bus to Comayagua. A former capital of Honduras, Comayagua declined to a sleepy town since the capital was moved to Tegucigalpa in 1880. Recently, it has realized its value as a historical town and projects are under way to reinvigorate the town. After a 2 hours ride, I was walking the cobble stoned streets of the town. I visited the park with the Iglesia de la Merced, and from there, continued to the Cathedral, the new parque central, and the San Francisco church a little further on. The square of the latter was entirely under construction, so I went back to the Cathedral. The park is nicely done, and quite lively with fountains, trees, flowers, drawing the usual crowd of youngsters kissing, elder people talking about days gone by, people crossing it on the way to their appointments.

Picture of Comayagua (Honduras): Comayagua: Cathedral of Santa María

The cathedral towers above the park, actually its contours are laid down in stones on the street. It was renovated a few years ago, and now is the proud, white crown on the skyline of the town. I was especially interested in its clock: it is one of the oldest working clocks in the world. It is also called Reloj Arabe or Arab Clock, and it was made around 1100 in Spain and served as a clock in the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. It was donated to Comayagua in the 17th century by the Spanish king. From outside, you cannot see it, as the clock on the tower is a new one, only the clockwork is the real thing. I just had to find a way up. I didn't see anyone responsible inside the church, so I went to a building apparently related to the cathedral, just across the street, and asked. It appeared that there was a twin in charge of the cathedral and visits to the tower, but just that day, only one of the two twins was there and he obviously had to supervise the cathedral. So, unfortunately, a visit to the clock was not possible. I went back to the cathedral anyway, and found one of the twins. Initially, an old man was to take me up, but he continued nagging about the fact that a lot of money was spent on the reconstruction of the church, but that there was no money to pay him, so he refused to walk the stairs of the tower. Then, the twin showed up with the key of the tower, and up the tower we went. There, next to what seemed to be a wooden box, lay an old man sleeping. When he heard us, he stood up, put his hat on his head, and looked at us through his big glasses.

Picture of Comayagua (Honduras): Comayagua: chapel of the Cathedral of Santa María from outside

His eyes looked very lively and eager. He was very delighted to open the wooden box, and as he opened the doors, there it appeared: the more than 900 years old clockwork. The wheelwork, ropes, weights, pendulums, some moving and some not, and the old man, who introduced himself as Blas Reyes, set off to explain how this collection of wooden and metallic parts could tell the time. He was a passionate speaker, in love with his clock, and obviously this was his life work. Actually, he has been doing this since 1963, sleeping next to the clock every day, fixing it when necessary, and winding it up early morning when he came in and every evening before he left. He took us upstairs to show the enormous bells, some to sound every 15 minutes, some only at the full hours. He begged us to stay until the clock would strike 5, so we could see what happened. Even though I was going to miss the last bus back to Tegucigalpa, I could not resist. One of the wheels turned, there were clicks, another wheel started to spin rapidly, and we saw the cables connecting the clock with the bells upstairs move just before the clock started to sound. I thanked this colourful person and fortunately enough still found a bus on the Siguatepeque to Tegicugalpa highway.

Picture of Comayagua (Honduras): Comayagua: detail of San Francisco church
Picture of Comayagua (Honduras): Comayagua: one of the oldest clocks in the world at work
Picture of Comayagua (Honduras): Comayagua: Blas Reyes looking at his clock, one of the oldest in the world
Picture of Comayagua (Honduras): Comayagua: fountain with Cathedral
Picture of Comayagua (Honduras): Comayagua: leaded window in Cathedral
Picture of Comayagua (Honduras): Comayagua: chandeliers in Cathedral
Picture of Comayagua (Honduras): Comayagua: bell in bell tower
Picture of Comayagua (Honduras): Comayagua: inside of one of the oldest clocks in the world
Picture of Comayagua (Honduras): Comayagua: one of the weights of the Reloj Arabe

Around the World in 80 Clicks

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