Saturday, November 17, 2018

San Francisco de Campeche

We resume our posts on Yucatán with a look at two churches in the City of Campeche on the western coast of the peninsula:
After the long-delayed conquest of Campeche in 1540,  Francisco de Montejo, the conquistador of Yucatán, invited the Franciscans to establish their first mission here. The friars deliberately chose a location close to the original Maya settlement but at some distance from the fledgling Spanish town, in part to keep the newly converted Indians away from what they considered the baleful influence of the Spanish colonists.
   The earliest mission building was a primitive affair, described by a visiting friar in 1545 as, “built of pole and thatch like the rest of the houses of the pueblo.” This flimsy structure was soon replaced by a masonry mission, which was to be the prototype for many of the later monasteries in Yucatán. It was designed as a compact block, incorporating both church and convento, with the friars’ living quarters placed on the shady north side of the church.

Little of the original fabric of the mission now remains, because its exposed position at the water’s edge made it vulnerable to pirate attacks, as well as to the unremitting action of the sea. As early as 1588, the visiting Father Ponce complained that the building was in deplorable condition, with a leaky roof and waves pounding upon its walls. Today, construction of the coastal highway has at last placed the restored mission beyond the reach of the Gulf waters.
A column embedded in the arcaded portería that stretches across the monastery front commemorates the historic mass of 1517. 
The church facade—currently painted red—is plain and square, its plain classical porch surmounted by a dated relief with the Stigmata—testimony to the long Franciscan presence here. 
The austere 16th century profile of the mission has been altered with an 18th century belfry, pierced by curved and pointed bell niches.
The simple, whitewashed interior of the church contains a monolithic limestone font in which members of the Cortés family were allegedly baptized.
text and photography © 1988 & 2018 Richard D. Perry
Please visit our earlier pages on the frontier churches of Yucatán: Chemax; ChikindzonotIchmulSacalacaSabán; Peto/Petulillo;

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