Santiago Apóstol Parish Ruins – Cartago, Costa Rica

Photo of The Ruin - Cartago, Costa Rica
"The Ruin" - Cartago, Costa Rica - P.90 photograph

I imagine that one of the reasons people travel is the chance – however small – it affords to see that you have ways about you that weren’t all that apparent traveling only amongst your own tribe. Lisa and I made a medical tourism pilgrimage to Costa Rica recently and I was frequently aware that it was not my tribal elders that ran the place.

And there’s nothing like getting behind the wheel of a car to give you a quick appreciation for that. Never mind the odd layout of streets and utter lack of street name signage in San Jose or the complete disregard for what signage there was come nightfall, one of the things that most tickled my cultural funny-bone was the presence of bus stops in the right hand lane along the main highway. Costa Rica is just similar enough to my own home turf to find it amusing that I had to be constantly on the lookout for pedestrians on the highway trying to catch a bus stopped in the outside lane of traffic. But then – I don’t get out much . . .

So after quickly tiring from the thought of driving by yet another standard issue Costa Rican church (Italy spoils one for that sort of thing) I was completely delighted to stumble across the Romanesque edifice know to locals in Cartago simply as “The Ruin“. This was clearly another kind of project and indeed it turns out to have been designed in the 1870’s by the German architect Francisco Kurtz on a site typified by the frequent destruction of churches due to earthquakes. In keeping with tradition, this example was never completed because it was built on a site typified by the frequent destruction of churches by earthquakes. More recently the church grounds have been made into a very pleasant contemporary sculpture garden featuring one my favorite materials – rusty steel.

I consumed an entire roll of film with my P.90 while wandering among the Costa Rican couples and families who inhabit the grounds apparently oblivious to their original intended role as a place of worship and perhaps even the current focus on the display of rusted personal expression. Naturally I couldn’t help reflecting on the Bungaloft remodel and its attendant seismic concerns as I worked to be inconspicuous with my very conspicuous wooden camera while photographing the roofless remains. My favorite image from that afternoon so far is the one above. I like the tree asserting its presence next to the timeless old structure and my own awareness that just below the frame is the veritable throng of visitors keeping their vigil beneath the beautiful stone walls.

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