Thursday, July 13, 2017

Hidden Gems: Two at Cheran

From time to time we take a look at modest rural churches with colonial antecedents that are overlooked by most students of viceregal art and architecture, but that often possess features of special artistic interest.  We like to call them Hidden Gems.
The indigenous community of Cherán, in mountainous western Michoacán, is much in the news. In the face of violence and depredations on the part of criminal gangs and corrupt state authorities including the police, the purépecha speaking inhabitants, led by village women, have recently taken matters into their own hands, instituting their own government apart from the state, as part of the controversial autodefensa movement, and forming local armed militias to resist incursions.
   Despite this upheaval, the arcaded town plaza retains its colonial flavor, including two notable colonial buildings: the 17th century parish church, and the former Franciscan hospital chapel dating from the 16th century. 
   Both monuments are remarkable in that their original facades are now hidden at the rear of the present buildings, for the most part ignored but still preserved.

Cheran. the parish church, rear view
With the remodeling and reorientation of the parish church, its original west front has been partially blocked off, almost forgotten behind what is now the church sanctuary. 
However, the vigilant visitor can still spot statues of St. Francis and a pair of archangels peering over the surrounding rooftops from their niches in the upper section of the sober baroque facade.
Cheran. the hospital chapel, rear view
The former guatápera, or hospital chapel, now functioning as a community center and library, is largely in its original condition, except for a new front. However, the old facade, now located at the rear of the building, is intact although also blocked.
The facade is framed in the traditional, Moorish inspired, regional manner, with a simple alfiz, inset with a pair of outsize shell reliefs, above the plain, arched doorway. Mullioned ajimez windows pierce the massive stone walls above the doorway and along the nave.
text and b/w images © 1997 & 2017 Richard D. Perry.  All rights reserved
Check out more Hidden Gems: Xichu de IndiosSan Felipe Sultepec; San Pablo Malacatepec;  OcoxochitepecMixquiahuala

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