Place of the Stone BuildingLocated a mere 18 kilometers from Mérida, San Francisco Conkal was founded in 1549. In 1550 Fray Diego de Landa, then only 26 years of age and at the beginning of his controversial career, became Guardian.
Early in the 1600s, Fray Gerónimo de Prat, a prominent Franciscan architect, started work on the permanent stone church. The exterior is severe, its sheer nave walls topped by rows of heavy merlons. The imposing south-facing facade, also plain, with its high, arching pediment and matching rounded belfries, radiates a primeval sculptural strength. The lower facade forms an intricate patchwork of stone mined from the ancient Mayan “stone buildings” in the vicinity.
The simple, pedimented porch is closely related to the doorway of La Mejorada in Mérida, with an arched doorway and flanking pilasters incised with geometrical motifs. Its triangular pediment encloses the Franciscan arms.
Elsewhere, God the Father gestures from the surmounting pediment, while portraits of the Doctors of the Church adorn the basal tier, or predella.
The cloister to the rear of the church has been lavishly refurbished to house a Museum of Sacred Art, with a focus on colonial Yucatán.
See our map for the location of the retablos in this series
text © 1988 & 2014 Richard D. Perry
images by the author, Jurgen Putz & Christian Heck
for complete details and suggested itineraries on the colonial monasteries and churches
of Yucatán, consult our classic guidebook.