In April 2009 Honduras suffered a great cultural loss when an entire city block just off the square in Comayagua burned. This block of colonial buildings belonging to the Diocese of Comayagua, included a chapel of the Virgin of Carmen, the Bishop's residence, the church's radio station, the Colonial Art Museum, and the Colonial Ecclesiastical Archives. The fire, which started in the electrical system in the roof over the chapel quickly spread to all the interconnected structures, which burned. All that was left were charred adobe walls.
Much of the collection of the Colonial Art Museum was rescued; estimates are as high as 80% of the material on exhibit was saved. The Colonial Ecclesiastical Archive was nearly a total loss, with only a few charred bound volumes recovered. Fortunately, parts of this invaluable collection of documents had previously been microfilmed by the University of Texas, Arlington, and the Mormon Church. In the chapel there were a number of Colonial images of saints being stored, including Our Lady of Sorrows, Saint Mary Magdalene, Saint Peter, and the Virgin of Carmen with baby Jesus, and all of these were destroyed.
These saint's images, along with others, were used in processions around the city of Comayagua during Holy week. Last year, there was sadness, as the fire happened just after Easter. This year, however, there is joy.
Monsignor Roberto Camilleri, Bishop of Comayagua, commissioned a sculptor in Seville to make replacements for all the lost saint's statues. Reubén Fernández Parra, whose workshop in Seville is famous for religious sculpture, was commissioned last June to replace the 5 saint's statues, and to provide a sixth, of Saint Veronica. All are standing wooden and painted figures with the exception of the baby Jesus held by the Virgin of Carmen. The baby Jesus figure has movable arms and legs. The new image of Our Lady of Sorrows is an attempt to copy the destroyed one using existing photography. The Saint Peter statue was inspired by the one lost, but there was less photographic documentation so it is not a faithful copy. For the others, there was insufficient documentation to make replicas.
An article in Arte Sacro has a wonderful set of pictures of the new figures, and they also appear on Fernández Parra's website, where he has numerous photographs of his work. The ones for Honduras are the statues that currently appear first on the page. Welcome, then, to these beautiful new figures making their debut this week in Comayagua!