Home Slider The “firuletes” of the church of Saint Peter Telmo

The “firuletes” of the church of Saint Peter Telmo

by Horacio Espinosa
placa iglesia san telmo

I did not want to enter this temple in Buenos Aires. However, the visit ended up being a great gift for my heart.

Según la Real Academia Española la palabra firulete proviene del gallego “ferolete”, cuyo significado es “pequeña flor”. Se cree que ello deriva a su vez de “florete”, que en español antiguo era el diminutivo de flor. En el plano artístico, el término refiere a adornos que rodean o recuadran alguna imagen. Se trata de conjuntos de líneas curvas pintadas caprichosamente (el arabesco criollo) y muy utilizadas en el arte popular llamado  “fileteado o firuleteado” (el arte de dibujar y pintar líneas finas que parecen hilos).

According to the Spanish Royal Academy the word firulete comes from Galician “ferolete”, whose meaning is “small flower”. It is believed that this in turn derives from “florete”, which in ancient Spanish was the diminutive of flor. On the artistic plane, the term refers to ornaments that surround or frame some image. These are sets of curved lines painted capriciously (the Creole arabesque) and widely used in popular art called “filleted or firuleteado” (the art of drawing and painting thin lines that look like threads).

It is also called “firulete” a type of movement that a couple performs in the dance of tango and hence the name of the famous song composed by maestro Mariano Mores. Likewise, in a soccer match reported in Argentina or Uruguay, it can be heard that before a feint of a player is said “look at the firulete that was sent”.

Now, what does all this have to do with the Church? In truth, I did not know the relationship between the firulete as a decorative element and the temples. I had never seen him in a church until I entered the church of San Pedro Telmo in the neighborhood of Buenos Aires that bears the name of that religious. Although many times he had passed in front of the parish, which is actually called Our Lady of Bethlehem, he had never entered.

A little history

The construction began in 1734 on the initiative of Jesuits. In 1767, due to the expulsion of the Order of the Society of Jesus, the set of buildings known as “The Residence” (church, school and house of exercises), went to be administered by the State. The temple remained unfinished until in 1795 the site was occupied by the Order of the Betlemites, dedicated to assist the poor and sick who finished the work. It was inaugurated in 1876 and the name was imposed in honor of the Virgin.

Since the parish still has a large part of the original construction, it is one of the oldest in the city of Buenos Aires. Although that detail was forgotten for a long time, in 2005 the temple reopened one of the original cloisters to the public. There are exhibited various objects belonging to the stages that the church lived, such as a leather chair used by the Jesuits between 1734 and 1767; a marble table that Bethlemite parents used to operate injured during the English invasions; and a pulpit donated by the Argentinean hero Manuel Belgrano in 1805.

A curious fact is that “San Pedro Telmo” or “San Pedro González Telmo”, according to a historian, was “neither Holy nor Telmo”, which is true. The true name of the Dominican friar patron of the parish is Pedro González, “alias” San Telmo.

The confusion has to do with Italian immigrants who lived in the area of ​​the parish and came from the outskirts of Formia (a small Italian town north of Naples), whose patron was San Erasmo, protector of fishermen. Seeing the virtues of Pedro González and matching them with that of San Erasmo (Sant-Elmo, in local dialect), they began to call him Sant Elmo, Pedro Sant Elmo. Over the years and word of mouth, the nickname became San Pedro Telmo.

Altar at Our Lady of Bethlehem Church

The visit

One afternoon we were walking with my wife through the historic neighborhood of San Telmo in Buenos Aires.

We went through the craftsmen’s fair and almost finishing it, we arrived at the temple, my wife wanted to go in and honestly I did not really want because “it was just another church”. But I let myself go, I opened my heart, as I say many times, and I entered.

The first thing I saw is an image of the Holy Father with “firuletes” around him. As far as I know, that union of firulete and sacred art is not repeated anywhere else, since this art is rather “arrabalero”, that is to say, handsome.

Walking through the parish, I was warning that in this place, something poor and with little maintenance, the mercy of the Lord is perceived. I was able to read posters where with great consideration the homeless are asked to have respect for the house of God, but it is clear that they are allowed to take refuge there. From those details, I felt that this temple was really a “House of God”, a “House of all”.

Continuing the tour I saw that in addition to firuletes in the picture of the Pope, there were also other images. For example, in those of San Juan Pablo II, of San Francisco de Asís, of Our Lady of Guadalupe and of Our Lady of Coromoto (Patron of Venezuela).

We prayed for a while under the image of Our Lady of Bethlehem, a situation that made me remember our prayer at the feet of the image of Mama Mary in her birthplace in the Holy Land.

I thank once again Mary for reminding me that opening the doors to God one feels happier and receives this kind of graces, thanks that are for everyone. We just have to walk with our eyes, our ears and especially our open heart. I did not want to enter this temple and the visit ended up being a great surprise gift for my soul.

Traveler’s tips

  • The address of the Church is Humberto 1º 340.
  • San Telmo was the “rich neighborhood” of Buenos Aires before the Yellow Fever epidemic in 1870. Because of that past, there are facades of many palaces worth seeing.
  • On Sundays there is a fair of craftsmen, objects with very good finishes and originals are presented.
  • In the Plaza Dorrego there are tango and music dance street shows very typical of Buenos Aires.
  • On the Defensa street there are many antique houses.
  • Do not miss the San Telmo Market (calle Bolívar 970), just 300 meters from the Dorrego square and a little more from the Church of San Pedro Telmo. There are many vernacular dining options, but I recommend “Je suis Raclete”, an incredible Swiss place.
  • Look for the Cartoon Walk in the neighborhood of San Telmo.
  • This parish is just over 1 km from the María Antonia Spiritual Exercises House of San José Oliva founded 240 years ago.                                          

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2 Comments

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Mirta Biondi May 3, 2019 - 12:28 pm

En esta Iglesia de San Perdo Telmo están las Sibilas . Pintura cuzqueña , digna de ver. Son 12 figuras femeninas, ubicadas en la Sacristía y restauradas en el 2005 por especialistas de la UNSAM y el patrocinio de la Fundación .Antorchas. Imperdibles. una joya..Las profetisas de la antigüedad clásica tienen junto a sí un óvalo de flores en el que se se muestra un episodio de la vida de Jesús .

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Elsa Ana Mkauc May 5, 2019 - 8:08 am

Gracias Sr.Espinosa por darme la oportunidad de conocer iglesias y lugares que solo escuche, pero, no sabia nada al respecto. Ud sabe como hacerlo!! graciassss

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