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The geographical and historical dictionary of America and the West Indies [volume 1]

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302

CARACAS.

[ments ; the very cornices appear to have beendipped in gold, whilst superb carpets are spreadover the part of llie floor whereon the seats of ho-nour are placed ; the furniture is arranged in thehall in such a manner that the sofa, which formsan essential part of it, stands at one end withchairs on the right and left, and opposite the prin-cipal bed in the house, which stands at the otherextremitj, in a chamber, the door of which is keptopen, or is equally exposed to view in an alcove.These apartments, always very elegant and high-ly ornamented, are in a manner prohibited to thosewho inhabit the house : they are only opened, witha few exceptions, in honour of guests of superiorrank.

14. Public buildings. — The city of Caracaspossesses no other public buildings than such asare dedicated to religion. The captain-general,the members of the royal audience, the intendant,and all the officers of the tribunal, occupy hiredhouses ; even the hospital for the troops is a pri-vate house. The contaduria, or treasury, is theonly building belonging to the king, and its con-struction is far from bespeaking the majesty of itsowner. It is not so with the barracks ; they arenew, elegantly built, and situate in a spot where thesight breaks upon the city, and are two storieshigh, in which they can conveniently lodge 2000men. They are occupied only by the troops ofthe line ; the militia having barracks of their own,consisting of a house, at the opposite part of thecity.

15. Archbishopric. — Caracas is the seat of thearchbishopric of Venezuela, the diocese of whichis very extensive, it being bounded on the n. bythe sea, from the river Unare to the jurisdiction ofCoro ; on the e. by the province of Cumana, onthe s. by the Orinoco, and on the w. by thebishopric of Merida. Caracas was erected intoan archbishopric in 1803. The annual revenueof the archbishopric depends on the abundance ofthe harvests and the price of commodities, onAvhich they take the titlies : these tithes are equallydivided between the archbishopric, tlie chapter,the king, and the ministers of religion. Thefourth part, belonging to the prelate, amounted onan average, before the war terminated by the treatyof Amiens, to 60,000 dollars per annum. Thedecrease of cultivation will for a long time pre-vent the episcopal revenues amounting to theabove sum. Indeed the archbishop does noteven enjoy the whole of this fourth part of thetithes, the king having reserved to himself theapplication of the third of this quarter, and charg-ing upon it certain pensions. The seat of this

archbishopric was established at Coro in 1532,and translated to Caracas in 1636.

16. Cathedral. — The cathedral church does notmerit a description but from the rank it holds inthe hierarchy ; not but that the interior is deco-rated with hangings and gilding, and that thesacerdotal robes and sacred vases are sufficientlysplendid, but that its construction, its architec-ture, its dimensions, and its arrangements, arevoid of majesty and regularity. It is about 250feet long and 75 broad ; it is low and supported inthe interior by 24 pillars in four rows, which runthe whole length of the cathedral. The two centrerows form the nave of the church, which is 25feet broad ; the other two rows divide the aisles atequal distances of 12| feet, so that the nave aloneis of the width of the two aisles, which are on itsright and left. The chief altar, instead of being,like the Roman altars, in the centre, is placedagainst the wall. The choir occupies one halfof tlie nave, and the arrangement of the churchis such, that not more than 400 persons can seethe officiating priest at whatever altar he may beperforming tlie service. The exterior does notevince any taste or skill in the architect ; thesteeple alone, without having received any em-bellishment from art, has at least the merit of aboldness to which the cathedral has no pretensions.The only clock in Caracas is in this steeple ; itstrikes the quarters, and keeps time pretty well.The humble architecture of the first church inCaracas springs from a source highly honourableto the inhabitants, and which we are thereforebound to relate : The episcopal chair having beentranslated from Coro to Caracas, (as we have be-fore observed), in 1636, there was no necessityuntil this period for a cathedral in this city ; andwhen they had begun to carry into execution aproject of erecting a magnificent church, therehappened, on 11th June 1641, a violent earth-quake, which did great damage in the city. Thiswas regarded as an admonition of heaven to makethe fabric more capable of resisting this sort ofcatastrophe, than of attracting the admiration ofthe curious. From this time, therefore, they nolonger thought of, or rather they renounced, all ideasof magnificence, to give the building nothing butsolidity. But as they have never since expe-rienced any shock of an earthquake, they haveresumed the project of building a handsome ca-thedral.

17. Religious customs, — The people of Caracas,like all the Spaniards, are proud of being Chris-tians, and are very attentive to the duties of re-ligion, that is to the mass, days of obligation, to]

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