Ciudad Antigua

Nueva Segovia, now known as Ciudad Antigua, is actually the second Nueva Segovia. The first, or at least its ruins, located five km south of Quilali, was founded in 1543 on an earlier mining town, Santa Maria de Buena Esperanza. The Indians burned that town about 1530. Though Nueva Segovia was located in a rich area for placer mining, by 1610 the Indians had burned that town also, and paraded around the head of one Captain Daza around on a lance. Surviving Spaniards then moved west and south 60 km, to a plain by the Arrayán River. There they built another Nueva Segovia. The town was laid out using the Spanish urban pattern. Soon the town had a convent, and a major church, probably built in the second half of the 17th century. When the roof of the church was replaced in 1992, some of the roof tiles had the date of 1671 baked into them. The church itself has a floor plan almost identical to the church in Totogalpa and Subtiaba, suggesting the same set of plans was used for the three churches, all built at the later part of the 17th century and demonstrating definite Mosarabe architectural characteristics.

Ciudad Antigua was the de facto capital of northern Nicaragua until Ocotal was founded in 1781. It was also the northeastern frontier of colonial Nicaragua. It experienced an economic boom by producing pine pitch that was used in the shipbuilding industry at El Realejo. It also attracted pirates. On May 12, 1676, one English Captain Wright attacked the city and sacked it. The small garrison ran away and the Crown conducted an inquiry as to why the garrison abandoned the town. In 1688 a much more ambitious group of pirates attacked Spanish Central America and sacked the towns of Choluteca, Tepesomoto (today´s Somoto) and Nueva Segovia. The pirate expedition had one Ravenau de Lausan, physician and second command, who recorded the highlights of the band. They attacked Nueva Segovia, and he accurately described the town, its church, with three naves, and no slaughter house.   The pirate band fought its way through a Spanish ambush somewhere by the Susukayán River, made its way to the Rio Coco, floated to Cabo Gracias and returned to Europe. Ravenua de Lausan had to hire four men to carry his share of the booty. He returned to Paris and died a rich man, .thereby proving, at least some times, piracy does pay.

After the founding of Ocotal, Nueva Segovia sort of fell into semi abandonment, and after about 1830 it began to be called Ciudad Antigua, or old town. Mention is found of Ciudad Antigua during the war with Sandino in the 1920´s. The parish priest, Padre Madrigal, served the community and much of northern Nicaragua, riding on a mule. He also went to great lengths to reconstruct much of the history of families in Ciudad Antigua and surrounding area.

Ciudad Antigua was also a hotspot during the Contra War. In 1987 there was a large EPS garrison camped in front of the church. In 1992 the casa cural at Antigua was the site of negotiation between Colonel Haveslaven of the EPS, and Commandante Chacalín of the Recontra Group 380. After 1994 things calmed down now it has gone back to being a sleepy, northern town. It has an interesting religious procession every Palm Sunday. Inside the church is a large crucifix, reportedly sent by the Spanish Crown in 1660’s. Legend has it that the pirates tried to steal it, but for some reason it would not pass through the doors. It still adorns the altar of the church, and is worth a visit.

Antigua Gallery

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