" One of the most beautiful temples of this realm. Fashioned with such rare skill that the windows, the ribs of the vault, the pulpit and even the choir rail are all finely chiseled in stone in the same manner"
anonymous 18th century chronicler
Inside the Church *
Despite a facelift in the last century, when its gilded Baroque retablos were consigned to the flames and replaced by neoclassical altars, the interior retains much of its colonial grandeur.
|Rib vault above the crossing|
|under choir wheel vault (Wikimedia-Ivan)|
Among the most accomplished works of sculpture in the church is the sumptuous Isabelline pulpit, delicately carved with Augustinian insignia like the facade—in our view the finest sculpted stone pulpit in Mexico.By contrast, the primitive font is fringed by eroded lions and angels. Originally an outdoor fountain, it was pressed into service during the mass baptisms of the Spiritual Conquest and continues to fulfill the same role more than 450 years later.
Its ogee arches and Gothic finials suggest the hand of a Spanish craftsman, as does the handsome processional doorway into the cloister—one of several similar portals in the church: four doorways on the south side of the nave open to the Sacristy, the Sagrario chapel, the Baptistry and the Convento.)
|Carved doorway to bell tower with grotesque frieze|
Traces of monochrome figures and friezes emerging from behind the 19th century overpainting along the nave hint at 16th century murals still awaiting recovery.
* 2017 update: Following the 9.19 Mexico earthquake, strongly felt in Morelos, cracks opened in the painted vaulting, which during the heavy rains that followed, threatened both the structure and damaged the murals.
text © 2015 Richard D. Perry.
color pictures by the author and courtesy of Niccolo Brooker, Felipe Falcón and others.
for details on other 16th century Mexican monasteries, consult our classic guide book