Grecia’s church, Iglesia de la Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, is arguably, the most interesting structure in Grecia. Whether or not she is in the physical center of the town is of no matter, the church is the center of Grecia. The church is the center of most towns in Costa Rica; the towns social core, the origin of all directions. However, Grecia’s church is unique – both because it is RED and because it is made entirely of prefabricated metal sheets.
There are many stories surrounding how the church came to be built in Grecia, with the urban legends quite a bit more interesting than the reality. One urban legend states that the church was a gift to Greece from an unknown country. Grecia, being the Spanish word for Greece, was the beneficiary of the bungle. In another legend, the church was to be delivered to the Chilean port of Punta Arenas but was mistakenly delivered to the Costa Rican port of Puntarenas.
The real story, according to Wikipedia:
“…records clearly show that the instruction, shipment, and construction of the church were a coordinated effort of Grecia’s population, the Catholic Church, the Costa Rican government, and Alejo E. Jiménez Bonnefil (1858-1922), a Costa Rican coffee producer and exporter who was in charge of commanding and importing the church from the manufacturer Ateliers de la Société de Couvillet in Belgium, in the late 19th Century.”
Regardless how she got here, the church is beautiful and unusual with solid sheets of steel, riveted together and painted a “look at me” red and outlined in white.
As with many churches in Costa Rica, Grecia’s red metal church faces West and any and all directions given in town start with, “from the red church…” As far as heavy metal goes, in 2012, when we visited Grecia the pavilion in the park directly in front of the church, had a Metalica cover band playing for several hours on a Saturday night. The night before had a marching band, dancers and a whisle blowing drum-master, seen in the video below.