Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Guadalajara: San Felipe Neri

We resume our visits to colonial Jalisco with a first stop in the city of Guadalajara:
In a recent series we looked at several Mexican churches designed in a terminal baroque style known as Neostyle (neóstilo = new column)   Here we consider another church front that could be placed in this category.
San Felipe Neri
The opulent church front of San Felipe Néri lights up a nondescript and narrow intersection on a dowdy commercial back street west of the cathedral in Guadalajara. 

   Founded in the 1750s by the Oratorian order and dedicated to St. Philip Néri, their patron and founder, this imposing terminal baroque church was designed by the noted tapatío architect Pedro Ciprés, but not actually completed until the early years of the 1800s.
As with many other late colonial buildings in Guadalajara, the design features stylistic traits from earlier periods, but also looks forward to the advent of neoclassicism (the architect is also credited with a hand in the nearby neoclassical Hospicio Cabañas) 
   Fluted Corinthian tritostyle columns divide the lower tiers of a traditional, compartmented retablo facade, enclosing ornamental shell niches flanked by passages of rococo ornament. 
  The resident statuary constitutes a catalog of the founders of Catholic religious orders, including St. Francis of Assisi, St. Peter of Alcántara, St. Francis de Sales and, of course, St. Philip Neri. 

The upper facade is sculpturally more venturesome. Capped by an undulating, mixtilinear gable with surmounting statues, the rocaille decoration and spade shaped lambrequin pendants firmly date the decoration to the late 1700s. 
   Archangels, perched atop neo-Plateresque half columns, flank the central relief of the Virgin of the Assumption, who rises from a projecting corbel amid a swirl of clouds and cherubs. Traces of red on the relief suggest that the facade was once brightly painted—a spectacular sight that can only be imagined today.
   Flanking oval cartouches enclose full length reliefs of St. Philip Neri and St. Joseph—the traditional patron of missionaries in the New World. Assorted urns and shells, with religious monograms and inscriptions add to the rich texture. 

© Niccolò Brooker
Statuary stand atop the gable including St. Michael and, curiously, the muscular figure of St. Christopher—another avatar of the evangelization of the New World.
The ornate, two-tiered belltower, also by Ciprés, is considered the most beautiful in the city. The square lower stage, engorged by fleshy, layered pilasters and a multiplicity of cornices, supports an octagonal second tier that rises, pagoda-like, above the church front.

color photographs by Niccolò Brooker
The somber neoclassical interior, albeit roofed with rib vaulting, comes almost as a disappointment after the flamboyant facade. Somehow we expect a surfeit of ornament. A charming statue of El Santo Niño de Praga, a santo of Spanish origin, rests in a side chapel.
text © 2019 Richard D. Perry. all images © by the author except where noted

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