Travel Tarija: La Catedral de Tarija

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La Catedral de Tarija (Tarija Cathedral) is only one of the many cathedrals and churches you can tour in Tarija Bolivia. Some people don't find touring churches very interesting but I do. Here's why.

Bolivia has an extraordinarily high number of churches and cathedrals. What strikes me as so interesting about them is their colonial architecture and the incredible amount of Renaissance art they contain. Also interesting is the quality of the carvings, statues and other relics. Many of Bolivia's churches and cathedrals have "museos de arte sacro" (religious art museums) where you can see pieces that are hundreds of years old: silverware, fabrics, paintings, carvings, and more in silver and gold encrusted with gems. The church altars themselves are quite often completely gold or silver plated and encrusted with precious gemstones. And that is what really draws my attention: Bolivia's churches probably contain enough wealth to feed the entire nation for several years. But Bolivia's are very devout Catholics. In the second poorest country in South America, with high rates of theft and petty theft, no one touches the vast amount of wealth to be found in Bolivian churches and that is very admirable.

The Catedral de Tarija is more simple in style than other churches in Bolivia but this church and the many others in Tarija are very interesting to visit. Their stained glass windows, intricately carved pulpits and altars, statues and relics tell a story. The Catholic church has always played a very important role in politics and has had a great influence on the cultures of Bolivia. When you visit a church you're not just viewing a place where people meet on Sundays. You can actually learn a lot about the history of Tarija.

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