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La Plata

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La Plata, besides being the metropolitan see of Bolivia, is one of the three principal cities of that republic. The other two are La Paz and Cochabamba. The city owes its origin to the famous silver mines of Potosi, which are nearby. Owing to the chill climate of Potosi, which is about 13,000 feet above the level of the sea, the wealthy mine-owners conceived the idea of seeking a more pleasant habitation for their families, in a milder temperature, about sixty miles to the north-east. The city is said to have been founded as early as 1536, under the name of Villa de la Plata (Silver City); it was also long called, from the district in which ft is situated, Charcas, or popularly, Chuquisaca (Golden Gate). After the victory of General Sucre near Ayacucho (1824), it was named in his honour, Sucre. La Plata is built on a plateau, 8837 feet above the level of the sea, on the Cochimayo, a tributary of the Pilcomayo, flowing into it from the left, and is the metropolis of the department of Chuquisaca, numbering 20,907 inhabitants (1900), chiefly Indians and Mestizos. The city is the residence of the archbishop, has a medical institute founded in 1905, with a meteorological observatory, a museum of anatomy and natural history, a Franciscan missionary college, built in 1837 by Father Herrero, O.F.M., a flourishing college of arts and industries of the Salesians of Don Bosco (connected with the Oratory ), an Oratory of St. Philip Neri, also a geographical society, whose principal work has been the "Diccionario geografico del departamento de Chuquisaca" (Sucre, 1903). The many churches of the city are for the most part unattractive, the exteriors covered with unsightly stucco work, the interiors with wretched paintings. The only one worthy of note is the Cathedral of Nuestra Senyora de Guadalupe, a building with three naves and an imposing tower. This cathedral is remarkable for its wealth of treasures in silver, which, however, have recently diminished in importance, a part having been melted down by President Melgarejo. The miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, about seven feet in height, and encrusted with diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and pearls, is still in the church, and is valued at about two million dollars. Of the twenty-four massive silver candelabra, there are two at present weighing each about 110 pounds. Also in the cathedral are a large number of valuable paintings, among others a "Madonna de la Paz" by Murillo, a "Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew" by Ribera, a "Crucifixion of St. Andrew" by Montufar. In the adjoining chapel of San Juan de Mata are two artistic statues of St. Clement and St. Aquila, both containing relics of the saints. The spacious sala capitular, or chapter hall, contains the portraits of all the archbishops.

The Diocese of La Plata, or Charcas, was erected by Bull of Julius III, 27 June, 1552, as a suffragan of Lima. On 4 July, 1605, Paul V founded two new dioceses out of La Plata territory, La Paz and Santa Cruz de la Sierra, and on 20 July, 1609, raised La Plata to metropolitan rank. The province formerly embraced, in addition to the two above-mentioned dioceses, practically all the territory now comprised in Chile, Argentina, Panama, Paraguay, etc. To-day the boundaries of the ecclesiastical Province of La Plata coincide with those of the Republic of Bolivia, embracing only the suffragan Dioceses of La Paz, Santa Cruz de la Sierra , and Cochabamba, erected in 1847. The list of bishops of La Plata comprises six names; that of the archbishops, thirty-six, including the present incumbent of the see. Prominent among them are: Alonso de Peralta (1609-16), who died in the odour of sanctity ; Fernando de Arias y Ugarte (1627-30), previously Bishop of Quito and Archbishop of Santa Fe de Bogota, held the first provincial synod in 1629, was a true father to the Indians, and died, in 1638, Archbishop of Lima ; Gaspar de Villaroel, O.S.A. (1659-67), formerly Bishop of Santiago de Chile and Arequipa, also known as a writer on canon law and exegetics ( Hurter, "Nomenclator literarius," 2nd ed., Innsbruck, II, 1893, 138); Cristoval de Castilla y Zamora (1655-82), natural son of Philip II of Spain , who built the archiepiscopal seminary and the former archiepiscopal palace (now the president's mansion); Bartolome Gonzalez y Poveda (1683-92), who expended a hundred thousand pesos on the erection of the side aisles and the tower of the cathedral ; Pedro Miguel de Argandonya (1761-76), formerly Bishop of Cordova de Tucuman, who built the charter hall and held the second provincial synod in 1776, during the course of which his death occurred; the Discalced Carmelite José Antonio de San Alberto (1785-1804), a veritable father of the poor, who founded the local Oratory of St. Philip Neri and was also a writer of some merit on ascetical subjects; the Benedictine Benito Maria de Moxo y Francoli (1807-16), a well-trained scholar, the author of homilies and also of some polished poems in Latin and Italian, who died at Salta, in Argentina, having been banished thither by General Rondeau; Pedro Puch y Solona (1862-85); who assisted at the Vatican Council. The present (thirty-sixth) archbishop is a Franciscan, Sebastiano Francisco Pifferi, born, 4 November, 1848, at Castelmadama in the Diocese of Tivoli, Italy. He entered the Franciscan Order, 9 November, 1863, made his profession, 20 January, 1868, and was ordained to the priesthood, 14 May, 1871. He first worked in Bolivia as commissary general of his order, and in 1905 was appointed titular Bishop of Jericho and coadjutor of the aged Archbishop Miguel de los Santos Taborga (1898-1906), on whose death (30 April, 1906) he succeeded to the archiepiscopal See of La Plata.


According to a communication from Archbishop Pifferi, of January, 1910, the Archdiocese of La Plata embraces the departments of Chuquisaca, Potosi, Oruro, and Tarija, with an approximate area of 165,200 sq. miles, and a population of 805,299. The archdiocese is divided into 13 deaneries (vicariates forane), and comprises 135 parishes, over 200 vice- parishes, with 172 secular priests and 99 regular priests, besides 10 regular clerics not priests, and 26 lay brothers, in 6 monasteries of men, and 159 sisters in 21 houses. There are 70 students in the seminary. The 10 mission stations among the pagan Indians, and 7 mixed stations are all attended from the missionary colleges of the Franciscans. The religious congregations represented in the archdiocese are as follows: Franciscans, with monasteries at Sucre, Potosi, Oruro, and Tarija, all in the province of San Antonio de las Charcas. Of these four monasteries, Potosi (founded 1547), Sucre (mentioned above), and Tarija (1607), have flourishing missionary colleges in charge of missions among the pagan Indians. Moreover, the Oratorians of St. Philip Neri have an oratory at Sucre; Don Bosco's Salesians a college of arts and industries (with oratory ) at Sucre; the Lazarists, a house at Sucre; the Discalced Carmelite nuns, monasteries at Sucre and Potosi; the Poor Clares and the Servants of Mary, each a house at Sucre; the Augustinian nuns, a monastery at Potosi; lastly, the Daughters of St. Anne have foundations at Sucre, Potosi, Orura, Tarija, and Tupiza. In addition to 14 religious schools, there are 2 educational institutions for boys (with 360 pupils) and one for girls (with an attendance of 1200), and 6 hospitals and hospices. Besides the Spanish language, there are Indian dialects still in use — Quichua, Aymara, and Guarani. St. Barbara , virgin and martyr, is patroness of the diocese.

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