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Friday, September 4, 2020

Guanajuato. San Francisco church

Followers of our blog know our interest in the works of Felipe de Ureña the pre-eminent 18th century architect, designer and retablista and his extended family.
   The city and state of Guanajuato are particular rich in baroque monuments designed by family members, most notably the former Jesuit church of La Compañía in the city.
   In this final post on Guanajuato we look at another city building attributed to Felipe de Ureña: the church of San Francisco.
   Formerly known as San Juan Bautista, this church was erected in one of the city parishes and originally dedicated to St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of water—a central factor in the city’s history and development and a constant source of concern because of flooding.    
   Although we have no firm documentation for the completion of the church, most of the construction took place in the 1780s. 
The Facade
Clearly derived from La Compañía and relatively restrained in ornament, the facade takes the form of a triumphal arch set on pairs of prominent but slender estípites, intricately layered with felipense style geometrical forms, including his signature “winged circle” motifs. 

estipite pilaster with winged circle relief.
The intervening niche-pilasters are framed with multiple scrolls and layered lambrequins. Rocaille scrolls decorate the jambs and profuse, cornucopia-like relief foliage fills the elevated spandrels of the rounded entry—possibly later additions by son Francisco Bruno.
   Above the doorway, a large ornamental lambrequin in the form of an inverted triangle bears a medallion of Christ in Majesty and provides a visual link to the upper level. Here, the estipites are much less substantial, enclosing feathery, layered corbels instead of niches to support the statuary. There is no gable of consequence, just a surmounting cornice. 
    The facade seems to just peter out instead of cresting with a flourish, although it may be that later alterations, notably the addition of the towers and the overhead clock, may have reduced it.
facade detail with statue of St Paul
Some of the upper facade statuary—the Franciscan saints Francis, Clare and Anthony of Padua—date from the mid-1800s, although the figures of Sts Peter and Paul below may be original. Likewise, the interior was also changed with the Franciscan reoccupation in the later 1800s, when the gilded estípite retablos were replaced by the present stone and stucco neoclassical altars.
upper facade with statuary
text and images © 2020 Richard D. Perry
See our pages on other Ureña works: Rayas ChapelAguascalientesCataLa ValencianaSaltillo/Monclova;

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