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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

The Church of St. Francis of Assisi

Chapala, Mexico

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

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Chapala is one of our favorite places in the world to live, with its near perfect climate, the affordable cost of living, the ease to Guadalajara's international airport and the friendly people.

That's what it's like today.

But do you know any of the history of the city of Chapala and the Church of St. Francis of Assisi?

Find out more below.

Church of St. Francis of Assisi in Chapala, Mexico

The Church of St. Francis of Assisi, Chapala, Mexico

Located on the water's edge of Lake Chapala and in the heart of Chapala town itself, is the Church of St. Francis of Assisi.

This is how it looks today.

Franciscan evangelists were sent here in 1521 from Spain by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. 500 years, that's how long ago Europeans have been coming to this area!

In 1538, Franciscan Friar Miguel Bolonia founded the city of Chapala, built his home on Chapala's tallest hill and built another hermitage on the island of Mezcala, where native children were given religious instruction to the Catholic faith.

The first church was built in 1548 and was made of adobe and grass. It was named San Francisco after the order of the Franciscan Padres. A hospital was also constructed, adjoining the church.

Bell tower at St. Francis Church, Chapala, Mexico

Bell tower at St. Francis Church, Chapala, Mexico

 

 

 

On September 10, 1864, Chapala became a municipality by decree of the Jalisco State Congress.

Perhaps the most important event of the year is the feast of the patron saint of Chapala, Saint Francis of Assisi. Beginning in late September, there are nine days of fireworks, games, dance, music, typical Mexican food, and drink.

The main plaza is packed with people each night, walking around, eating, drinking, listening to the mariachis, and waiting for the midnight fireworks.

View of Lake Chapala from one of the bell towers of Church St. Francis.

View of Lake Chapala from one of the bell towers of St. Francis

In order to gain access to the bell towers in the Church, Billy made a generous "donation" to the Priest in charge.

 While that gave him entry, Billy wasn't prepared for what he saw next.

The stairwell is steep with no lights, it's uneven and has no railing... and that just gets you to the first level!

Since Billy is afraid of heights, his heart was a-poundin' and he was a bit shaky. After the first level, there was a metal staircase being held on with one thin piece of bailing wire that pulls out of the wall once weight is on the staircase.

Are you kidding me?!

Now that he's in the tower itself, the footing is patchy along with wires, lights, boards and bumpy concrete so that standing sure-footed is impossible. The man guiding him kept telling him to get closer to the edge as the view was better. With nothing to hold on to and a long way down, he passed on this opportunity. Over all, Billy says he would put this idea of going to the towers of St. Francis on his Top Ten List of Stupid Things has has done as an adult.  

However, from here you can clearly see the Lago de Chapala, Mexico's largest freshwater lake.

Along the seawall is a malecon, on which people love to walk the distance from one end to the other, enjoying the restaurants, the view, the fountains and gardens.

To the left, outside the picture, is the island of Mezcala.

One of the bells in the tower of St. Francis, Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico

View from the bell tower of St. Francis Church

Before modern communications, church bells were a common way to call the town together for all purposes, both religious and community matters.

The ringing of church bells called people to prayer, and it was believed to suppress storms and repel demons.

Another bell in the towel St. Francis Church, Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico

Another bell in the tower in St. Francis

Bells were also signals to let the village know of a death. The bells would ring 3 times in a series of 3 for a man, 2 times in a series of 3 for a woman, and 1 ring three separate times for a child. Then the bell would ring out the age of the deceased.

The bells were used as clock chimes too.

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Christ the King bell, St. Francis Church bell Tower, Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico

Christ the King bell, St. Francis bell Tower

The size of a typical church bell is 28 inches or larger and the weight is 400 pounds and up. Most are cast bronze and have a deep rich tone.

To give you an example of bell size comparison, the USA's 1876 Centennial Bell weighs 13,000 pounds. The St. Paul's Cathedral in London, England houses Great Paul, which is the largest bell in the British Isles at 16.5 tons.

Chapala's main street, the old Hotel Nido and Cerro San Miguel, Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico

Chapala's main street, the old Hotel Nido and Cerro San Miguel

Another wide view from the top of St. Francis Church.

Chapala's highest hill with a white cross on it is called Cerro San Miguel. This is where Friar Miguel Bolonia built his first hermitage.

One of the oldest hotels in Chapala was the Hotel Nido (the brick building in the center) which was founded in the early 1910s. It housed the vacationing elite from all parts of Mexico as well as Billy, friends and family members from time to time.

With white table cloths on the dining room tables and waiters in black and white, El Nido was a class joint in its day. There was a swimming pool for the residents of the Hotel, and lush gardens surrounding it.

We were really sorry to see it go as a mainstay hotel in the area.

Not too easily seen, but to the right of the Hotel Nido is a yellow and white building which was the old municipal palace for Chapala. In 1998 this building was declared to be unsafe and the presidency was changed to the Hotel Nido.

The old presidency building was fixed and remodeled and opened in 2015 as the new Cultural Center. This new center houses art shows, plays, musicals, and academic presentations all year long.

Men ringing the bells of St. Francis Church, Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico

Men ringing the bells at St. Francis

Here you see several men ringing the Church bells by hand during the celebration of Patron Saint, St. Francis of Assisi.

During the celebration period, bells ring constantly, parades with the massive trucks (ambulance, fire, trash pick up) that serve the community honk loudly, and fire crackers go off. Street food is "everywhere" and markets are full. People celebrate and families get together.

Panoramic view from St. Francis

 

 

 

To the right of this photo is the first traffic light that was ever placed in Chapala. You then have the highest hill, the government building and then the beautiful view of the lake itself.

The remodeled malecon extends from the left of Cerro San Miguel, making a sharp turn where these large trees are clumped, and then continues on to the many restaurants at the other end of the lake view walkway.

The walking path along the lake is absolutely packed with tourists each weekend. There are minstrels, balloons, bubbles, homemade ice cream and a modern skate board area for the young to show off their skateboard skills.

The municipal park situated on the east shore of the lake in the Chapala area called Parque de la Cristiania is walking distance from this malecon. It has a couple of swimming pools and water slides for those hot summer days. It also has tennis courts and volley ball courts and lots of picnic areas.

St. Francis Church lit up at night. Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico

St. Francis lit up at night

The Church lit up at night is absolutely beautiful. During the Christmas holidays, there is a crèche out front, and plenty of Christmas decorations.

To the right of the Church is the impressive former residence of the Braniff family. It was built around the turn of the century and was purchased by Alberto Braniff of the airline fame. He kept the house for nearly 50 years.

Today it's the fashionable Cazadores Restaurant where people can enjoy typical Mexican dishes in an historical house, overlooking the lake. 

For more information, stories and photos of Mexico, click here click here

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About the Authors

 
Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on Amazon.com.

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