Sun in Church Ceiling
This sun was placed in the ceiling of the church to convince the sun-worshipping indigenous people that God was, indeed, inside the building – or so the story goes, at least.

I’m back in León!

Actually, Cas and I are here together. Cas is my partner in crime (and life) and we decided that a vacation was a good idea, as it often is. And since I was hoping to return to Nicaragua this month or next to continue the photo project I have been pursuing with the community of Santa Julia (on that, more in another post), Cas suggested that a visit to León and the Corn Islands (a pair of islands off Nicaragua’s Atlantic Coast) was an idea she could get behind. Needless to say, I agreed, and here we are, for a week in León followed by several days on Big Corn… followed by another week, on my own, in Santa Julia and Managua.

As my friends know, I like to visit places of worship when I travel, and León has several really interesting ones. One in particular, which I didn’t have time to visit last time I was here, is the Iglesia San Juan Bautisto de Subiata (the Church of Saint John the Baptist of Subiata).

Altar Detail - San Juan Bautista de Subiata
Part of the Christmas decorations on the altar at the Subiata church.

Subiata is a barrio of indigenous people, descendents of the original inhabitants of the region. This church was established by missionaries intent on converting the natives.

The problem the missionaries faced was this: that the indigenous peoples worshipped the sun, or at least a god symbolised by the sun. This meant that it seemed ridiculous to them that Christians worshipped indoors, and they refused to go into the church, at least to pray.  So conversion was difficult.

But we should never underestimate the creativity of a missionary intent on seducing someone to his faith!  The priests thought about it and, in the true Christian tradition of integrating the beliefs and practices of other faiths into one’s own, they had a metal sculpture of a sun made. This they placed in the ceiling of the Church to show that God was, indeed, inside. And the story is that the people converted.

Now, I’m sure it’s more complicated than that, but it is a cool story, and that sun is still there, very beautifully ‘shining’ from the ceiling of this very beautiful church, which was in the process of being decorated for Christmas while we were there.

That’s it at the top. Happy holidays!

preparing the Church
Men prepare the decorations for Christmas day. These banners are pretty typical, but most of the ones I have seen were yellow and white – the papal colours. This is the first time I have seen red, which I very much prefer.