Thursday, August 8, 2013

Aguascalientes: El Santuario de Guadalupe

In a new series we look at some of our favorite architectural works in the city of Aguascalientes. We start our city tour with a signature building by the eminent Mexican architect and designer Felipe de Ureña.

El Santuario de Guadalupe

Among the most beautiful and the most fully realized of the city churches is the Temple or Santuario of Guadalupe, located on Guadalupe St, in the eponymous barrio located just northwest of the city center.
   Construction of the Santuario began in 1767 and was not completed until after Felipe's death in 1777.  Nevertheless, Felipe de Ureña drew up the plans, designed the facade and probably most other ornamental details inside and out, as well as personally supervising much of the early construction.  
   Although the building has undergone some minor changes, the church of Guadalupe is perhaps the most complete statement of the felipense style by the maestro himself. 
It amply illustrates his lifelong attention to total design.  Every element, from the facade and the interior detailing, down to the retablos and church furnishings, played its part in the creation of an integrated and harmonious whole.
The Facade 
Completed c.1780, this elegant retablo-facade features tall, attenuated estípites and richly encrusted niche-pilasters that rise through the elevated first tier, stressing the verticality of the facade. 

Likewise, the choir window and upper niche in the center facade diminish in scale, to be surmounted by a multi-faceted, pinnacle-like, crowning pediment, all enhancing the soaring effect.  

The facade is also one of Ureña's most ornate. Scrolled and foliated rococo inspired ornament predominates, creating a dense sculptural effect further intensified by much fine statuary and a number of unusual grotesque-like reliefs. 
The scalloped entry & choir window arch too, are classic felipense motifs, as is the freestanding statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe mounted dramatically in front of choir window.
The Interior
The interior of the church is even ornate.  Heavily ornamented ribbed vaults cover each of the nave compartments, springing from elaborate running cornices which rest in turn on zigzag Composite columns with drum corbels, leading the eye to the great domed crossing and the apse beyond.  Moorish style lobed doorways, whose serrated arches are encrusted with exuberant ornament, open to side chapels along the nave.


In collaboration with his son-in-law Juan Garcia de Castañeda, Ureña also designed and fabricated the main altarpiece, which was unfortunately destroyed in the early 1900s and later replaced by a neoclassical main altar. 
This in turn was replaced in the 1970s by a replica in stone and stucco of the original wooden retablo, approximating Ureña's original design and based on an old surviving sketch, by Refugio Reyes Rivas, the designer of the later towers.
There is also an elegantly carved and framed stone pulpit with reliefs of the Four Evangelists.

Notable colonial paintings inside the church include a 1777 portrait of the Virgin of Guadalupe by José de Alcíbar, and another portraying scenes from the Life of the Virgin by José Berrueco.  These may have belonged to the original Ureña altarpieces.

text © Richard D. Perry
photography by Richard Perry and Niccolò Brooker

look for our forthcoming complete guide to the work of the Ureña family

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