INTERIOR OF CHURCHES
The interior of some Salvadoran iglesias (churches) can be very formal with rich décor. Cathedrals may be a lavish Baroque style or include Gothic vaulting. Some have as many as nine altars and/or include side chapels off the nave for quiet meditations or separate services.
Artwork within the larger churches often includes mosaics, bronze bas-reliefs, stained glass, Italian-influenced frescoes, sculptures, and murals. Classical Greek accents may be incorporated. Materials often used include Italian Carrara marble, granite, and stone. In other churches the designers try to utilize local resources such as the native hardwoods of the area rather than import materials from Europe.
Altars vary depending on location. In one church in the Chalatenango department, stones from the Sumpul River comprise the altar to reflect that area’s unique history during the civil war. In addition to religious themes, historical themes may also be included such as a “witness mosaic” and murals of historically significant events. Local nature such as flowers, fruit, and leaves may appear in some church artwork.
Crypts can be found in some of the larger churches. Not only clergy but also popular local historical figures and dignitaries are often buried in them.
The streams of colored light rays make Iglesia El Rosario (Church of the Rosary) in Centro, San Salvador, a breath-taking, captivating sight on a sunny day. In my mind its stunning stained glass windows rival those of Paris’ Sainte Chapelle. Not only is it like walking inside a kaleidoscope, but also you want to sit and meditate at each carefully chosen piece of religious artwork. With no interior pillars, its architects made sure there are no obstructions blocking any interior views.
Worship is more informal within quaint, smaller churches. As a result they are often colorfully painted in pastels with locally painted murals. We have seen handmade benches rather than pews located on just one side of the nave. Because our time is predominately spent accompanying our friends living in marginalized communities, we tend to see more of the small, informal churches. Generally, in the local houses of God, local tropical flowers such as bird of paradise, heliconia, anthurium, and hibiscus can be picked at the last minute to enhance the altar. Rows of colorful, thin scarves are sometimes draped in rows across the worshipers.
Here is a variety of interior shots of churches we have found enchanting.