For all its pomp and glory under Spanish rule, Cartagena was only deemed deserving of a theatre in keeping with its historic stature as recently as last century.
Built to celebrate the first centenary of the Colombian Republic in 1911, the Teatro Adolfo Mejia was constructed by Luis Felipe Jaspe, the architect responsible for many key local landmarks, most notably the Clock Tower.
After three decades of lobbying from cultural quarters towards the end of the 19th century the city's leaders finally decided that the Merced Church, in situ since 1625, would be turned over to the arts.
The church's chapel, left to fall into neglect after the wars of independence in the early 19th century, was converted into what is still fondly referred to as the Teatro Heredia in honour of the city's founder.
A luscious refurbishment by architect Alberto Samudio in 1988 restored the city's principal cultural venue to its former glory and Adolfo Mejia's theatre of dreams still hosts the city's most glittering events.
Through the course of the year classical music concerts, film premiers, literary readings and theatre troupes all compete to impress the city's culture buffs against a marvellous backdrop.
The theatre's eclectic but beautiful design ushers affluent spectators towards their seats via an icy cold, marble staircase shipped in from Italy. On the ceiling a glorious fresco painted by Cartagena's most renowned artist, Enrique Grau, depicts the dance of the nine muses of the arts.
Grau's magical surrealist stage curtain and the ornate, gold-plated fittings and towering figure of the India Catalina the charming translator for the city's founder Pedro Heredia provide the final golden touch to an already spectacular spectacle.