ORURUO, Bolivia (AP) — The colonial-era house of worship known in Bolivia as the "Sistine Chapel of the Andes" was filled with flowers over the weekend for those celebrating two weddings and seven baptisms on the windswept mountain plateau.
Although a far cry from the original Sistine Chapel at the Vatican, the colorful paintings that decorate the inside of this small church make it a popular choice for special religious services.
Built in 1608 to evangelize indigenous Bolivians into the Roman Catholic faith, the chapel these days attracts both the faithful and tourists who travel about 260 kilometers (160 miles) south from the capital of La Paz to reach the site in the town Curahuara de Carangas, in Oruro department.
With room for up to 200 worshippers, the chapel houses the statue of Santiago de Curahuara de Carangas, the town's patron saint.
One of the women who wed in the chapel over the weekend, Janet Choque, said she was attracted to the richness of the chapel's interior.
"This chapel is the best. Because of its historical richness it is better getting married here than in a cathedral," said Choque, who wore a traditional white bridal gown.
Biblical murals decorate the cupola, and include scenes depicting the Garden of Eden, the Last Supper and the Final Judgment. The Rev. Gabriel Antequera, a 28-year-old priest, said the murals originally were used to teach local residents about the Christian faith.
Antequera said he was proud to have overseen the chapel for seven years, calling it a "hidden jewel."