Tourist Attractions

Museums in Sucre, Chuquisaca

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Museums in Sucre
Museums in Sucre Museums in Sucre Museums in Sucre Museums in Sucre

Museo de la Catedral (Calle Nicolas Ortiz 61)

The Museo de la Catedral houses Bolivia's best collections of religious relics. In the entry room is a series of religious paintings from the colonial era. Next, a chapel has relics of saints, and fine gold and silver chalices.

The highlight, however, is the Capilla de la Virgen de Guadalupe, completed in 1625.

Encased in the altar is a painting of the Virgin, the city's patron, and a woman of means. She was originally painted by Fray Diego de Ocana in 1601. The work was subsequently coated with highlights of gold and silver and adorned in robes encrusted with diamonds, amethysts, pearls, rubies and emeralds donated by wealthy colonial parishioners. The jewels alone are worth millions of dollars.

Today, you can see some remains of this oil painting and the canvas, but mostly it has been destroyed by the thousands of pounds of jewelry that the faithful have offered the Virgin over the past 400 years. The weight of the jewels has torn the canvas to bits. All that survive are her face, her hands, and the face of the baby: the rest are pure gemstones. In addition to the Chapel of the Virgin, you can also visit the cathedral, which dates from 1559 but is purely neoclassical. After the independence from Spain in 1825, the liberators tried to erase all colonial influences from the churches in the area. Instead of seeing the elaborate baroque designs from the colonial period, you'll find that this cathedral is very simple and understated.

Hours Mon-Fri 10am-noon and 3-5pm; Sat 10am-noon

Museo de Charcas (Bolivar 698)

Displays paintings by Melchor Perez de Holguin as well as furniture handcrafted by native Indians.

Hours Mon-Sat 8:30am-noon and 2:30-6pm

This museum, which is housed in a 17th-century mansion, consists of three different mini-museums: colonial art, an ethnography and folk collection, and modern art. Overall, the museum provides a comprehensive look at the wide breadth of art forms, both indigenous and European, in Bolivia.

In the Colonial Museum, most of the art dates from the 16th and 17th centuries. The museum houses paintings by the half-indigenous Melchor Perez Holguin, including his most famous work, San Juan de Dios, which has an almost perfect depiction of human hands. You'll also find a collection of beautiful antique furniture on display.

In the Ethnographic and Folkloric Museum, you can learn about local rituals and view a collection of mummified bodies that provide insight on local death rituals. Also on display is a good collection of pottery from the Yampara culture. Its pottery is some of the most beautiful and technically advanced of all pre-Columbian cultures: you can see tears on the faces and evidence of ponchos.

The pieces in the Modern Art Gallery reflect contemporary Bolivian artists' focus on poverty and the back-breaking labor involved in working in the mines.

Museo de la Recoleta

This occupies the third quarter of the Recoleta convent built around 1600. It contains various colonial and republic paintings, sculptures jewelry numismatic and archeological collections.

Hours Mon-Fri 9:30-11:30am and 2:30-4:30pm; Sat 3-4:30pm

Inside Museo de la Recoleta you will find an excellent collection of colonial art and a courtyard that offers an incredible view of Sucre. Plus, you'll get a glimpse of what it must have been like to live and work here in the 17th century. For example, you can visit a re-created priest's room, very basic accommodations with only one blanket and a whip (used for self-flagellation). The Courtyard of the Orange Trees is the most impressive part of the museum, featuring an orange tree that is said to be more than 1,000 years old. Before the Spanish arrived, the indigenous people used this tree as a totem pole. Once the Catholic priests settled in here, however, the three big branches of the tree took on new meaning, representing the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Nowadays, the tree is also a modern-day Cupid: It is said that if you walk around it three times in a clockwise direction, you will marry in the next year.

The museum also houses works by colonial painter Melchor Perez de Holguin, pieces from the Cusquena school, and an interesting painting of Jesus with an exaggerated flagellation scene, said to justify all the abuse being committed at that time. As you walk around the museum, you may notice that the walls are crooked. This is intentional: it protects the building from the destructive powers of earthquakes.

Museo de Arte Indigena (San Alberto 413)

ASUR/Textile Museum

Hours Mon-Fri 8am-noon and 2:30-6pm; Sat 9:30am-noon

ASUR is an acronym for Anthropologists of the Andean South, who are trying to recover the lost artesian techniques of the local population. This museum does an excellent job of displaying some magnificent pieces of art, mainly in the form of textiles that provide a real insight into these local cultures. For example, the Inca culture had three commandments: Don't be a thief, don't be a liar, and don't be lazy. Apparently, the indigenous people would create big intricate textiles as proof that they weren't being lazy.

In the collection from the Tarabuco culture, the artists would only weave images of what they knew: people plowing the land, dancers, and horses.

In addition to viewing textiles, you can also see artists hard at work using ancient techniques of weaving, washing, and spinning the wool. It's amazing to witness the intense work that goes into creating these unique forms of art.

Museo Antropologico

Displays skulls, pottery, mummies, and textiles from the eastern tribes of Bolivia.

Museo del Arte Moderno

Displays works of modern Bolivian painting and sculptures.

Museo de los Ninos Tanga-Tanga (Plaza La Recoleta)

On the same square as La Recoleta, and set in a beautiful building, this excellent interactive children's museum focuses on renewable energy sources. Highlights include the botanical gardens and explanations of Bolivian ecology. The museum also hosts cultural and environmental programs, including theater performances and ceramic classes. The attached Cafe Mirador is a great place to relax while enjoying the best view in town.
The adjacent Ananay handicrafts shop sells unique high-quality artesanias , including especially cute children's clothing

Museo de Santa Clara (Avaroa 290)

Located in the Santa Clara Convent the Museo de Santa Clara, founded in 1639, contains several works by Bolivian master Melchor Perez de Holguin and his Italian instructor, Bernardo de Bitti. In 1985 it was robbed and several paintings and gold ornaments disappeared.
One of the canvases, however, was apparently deemed too large to carry off, so the thieves sliced a big chunk out of the middle and left the rest hanging - it's been restored but you can still see evidence of the damage.

Guides may also demonstrate the still-functional pipe organ, which was fabricated in 1664

Museo Gutierrez Valenzuela (Plaza 25 de Mayo)

In the southeast corner of the main plaza, the university runs the Museo Gutierrez Valenzuela; an old aristocrat's house with 19th-century decor. There's also an interesting natural history museum here.

Museo Textil-Etnografico (San Alberto 413)

The superb Museo Textil-Etnografico is a must for anyone interested in the indigenous groups of the Sucre area. Run by an anthropological foundation, it focuses particularly on the woven textiles of the Jalq'a and Candelaria (Tarabuco) cultures. It is a fascinating display, and has an interesting subtext: the rediscovery of forgotten ancestral weaving practices has contributed to increased community pride and revitalization.

There's information in English available, and you can observe the weavers at their patient work.

Museos Universitarios (Bolivar 698)

The Museos Universitarios are three separate halls housing colonial relics, anthropological artifacts and modern art.