Monday, February 2, 2015

Yecapixtla: Introduction

In our 1992 guidebook, Mexico's Fortress Monasteries, we described a group of major 16th century monasteries in central Mexico and Oaxaca.  Our entries were illustrated with line drawings which could not do full justice to the variety of architectural, artistic and especially the colorful aspects of these monuments.
   In our new series we revisit many of these early colonial  complexes, updating the information and adding color images, some recently taken and others chosen from our newly scanned slide archive.

Many years ago, back in the 1960s, we stopped by the imposing Augustinian priory of Yecapixtla to take some exterior pictures, one of which I used as a basis for a rather impressionistic painting and collage.  
   Later, in the mid 1980s, we paid a longer visit and had the privilege of meeting Santiago Aguilar, the 82 year-old sacristan of the church and a veteran of the Mexican Revolution.  As we recounted in our guidebook Mexico’s Fortress Monasteries:

After ascending the 94 narrow stone steps of the dark spiral stairway, we emerged giddy and breathless into the midday glare atop the church roof. Santiago,showing no ill effects from the climb, stepped into the garita perched precipitously at the apex of the facade and gestured towards the sweep-ing panorama. 
“When the Federales came in 1914," Santiago reminisced as he gazed into the distance, "I was only nine. Most of the villagers left during the Revolution, but I stayed and hid. I saw it all." 
He turned and pointed to the battlemented walkways beside the roof parapets. "Cannon and machine guns were hauled up here to defend the town.  Ah, the noise, the bloodshed, the destruction. How we all suffered!..."
Santiago beckoned us to the rear of the roof, pointing to an ancient timepiece hung in a small belfry, " This is the only thing that escaped damage in the Revolution. A wonderful old clock. German. Installed in the time of Don Porfirio and still keeping good time today." 
Santiago Aguilar in 1985
In the next several posts we hope to relive as well as add to our impressions of this magnificent 16th century Augustinian priory, starting with the exterior.
text and images © 2015 Richard D. Perry

for details on other 16th century Mexican monasteries, consult our classic guide book


  1. Love the story involving Don Aguilar. It's hard to understand how the Mexican Civil War/REVOLT-olution rates an annual celebration. Nothing good came of it unless one considers burning haciendas and the gratuitous massacres of hacendados and which rendered the Indians and mestizo workers homeless, landless, unemployed and starving cause for celebration.

  2. not to mention the destruction of priceless church furnishings including colonial paintings, statuary and altarpieces