Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Tiled Churches of Puebla: El Carmen

Nuestra Señora del Carmen
(16 de Septiembre 1500)
Founded as a modest barrio chapel or ermita in the 1500s, the building was taken over and greatly expanded into a conventual complex by the Reformed Order of Discalced Carmelites in the 17th century.  Although refurbished in recent times, the structures and some of the tile and stucco work dates from that period.
The renovated western gateway features a wide variety of colored tile, set in traditional zigzag or petatillo style. A charming eared panel in the gable, surrounded by painted stucco angels, portrays the Virgin of Carmen and may predate the gateway itself. 
The inner side of the gateway is also faced with red ladrillos emblazoned with the Carmelite insignia incorporating three stars and the cross of Mt Carmel.
El Carmen gateway, inner face
Several buildings face the inner courtyard or atrium. The arcaded former convento, visible from the gateway at the far end, was made over in the 1900s and is the most exuberant of the Pueblan tiled facades, faced in diamante and wavy herringbone patterns in a variety of shades. 
El Carmen: the convento front
Here, the Carmelite insignia reappear, enclosed in an elaborate, star-like Moorish border, while in the ornate gable above, a stone statue of the Virgin rests in a shell niche framed by decorative carved and painted stucco figures and motifs in popular style.
El Carmen: the church facade
The church entry beside the convento presents a classic poblano facade of sober, gray quarry stone offset by passages of multicolored tile work.  The Carmelite coats of arms appear once again, here in bold sculpted relief, on either side of the choir window.  
Two other items of note on this facade are the stylized, tiled portrait of the Virgin of Carmen above the doorway, and a stone cross carved with the Arma Christi atop the left buttress.
El Carmen: chapel of Santa Teresa
The polygonal structure nearest the gateway is the chapel dedicated to Santa Teresa, the founder of the Order—a later addition to the church but similarly framed with a dark, neo moorish entry and contrasting panels of zigzag ladrillo tiles.

text ©2013 by Richard D. Perry. All rights reserved
Photography by the author and courtesy of Mary Ann Sullivan and Niccolò Brooker.

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