Thursday, August 29, 2019

Missions of Michoacán: Erongarícuaro

We continue our posts on the early missions around Lake Pátzcuaro with a page on one of the most important and best preserved, that of Asunción Erongarícuaro.
Erongarícuaro, the monastery front (1994)
The town of Erongarícuaro is the largest settlement along the dry western shore of Lake Pátzcuaro. Erongaricuaro means "mirador" in the regional purépecha language and the picturesque Franciscan monastery here enjoys an exceptional vista of the lake. After 400 years the monastery still serves as a seminary and, to a great extent, preserves its 16th century appearance.
   Although there was a primitive mission here in the early 1500s—a visita of Tzintzuntzan just a short canoe trip across the water—Bishop Quiroga refused the Franciscans permission to build a monastery here. So it was not until after Don Vasco's death in 1565 that construction began, continuing into the next decade and possibly involving some of the same artisans who were working on Tzintzuntzan.

The Church
Just a few steps from the enclosed arcaded plaza, an arched gateway opens to the monastery atrium where an avenue of tall cedars leads us to the square church front. 

   The west doorway and ornamental choir window are classic statements of the regional, mudéjar flavored Plateresque style. Both are cut from smooth, cafe-au-lait limestone, and stand out sharply against the facade of dark, rough-hewn volcanic tezontle
   The broad Romanesque style arch of the doorway rests on equally wide jambs, headed by capitals of rustic volutes and acanthus leaves. But the doorway's most striking features are its five, giant, inverted scallop shells—a classic marker of church ornament in Michoacán—here undoubtedly derived from the mother monastery at Tzintzuntzan. 
The choir window (Niccolo Brooker)
An even larger shell relief projects above the broad jambed ajímez choir window divided by an ornate baluster column, as at at Tzintzuntzan. Shells are also embossed on the jambs while relief rosettes and medallions with the crossed keys of St. Peter cling to the surrounding alfiz
   These similarities to Tzintzuntzan suggest the influence of Fray Pedro de Pila, a former Guardian at Erongarícuaro, and his skilled stone carvers in its design and reconstruction.
A beam and cane ceiling covers the boxy nave, supported on a remarkable triple arrocabe, or carved wooden frieze, banded with painted brackets and trimmed by a twisted cord molding. 
   The massive sanctuary arch, outlined in dark basalt blocks, draws the eye to the apse where a naturalistic crucifix, known as El Señor de la Misericordia, hangs above the altar. 
Niccolo Brooker
The Convento An elegant triple arcade fronts the monastery beside the church. The high arches of the porteria rest on fluted columns capped with intricately carved "ram's head" capitals adorned with angels, cornucopias and the Franciscan knotted cord—all cut from soft, ivory-colored limestone.
Recessed behind the center arch of the portico is the grand archway of the 16th century open chapel, a cousin of the chapel at Tzintzuntzan, although more Renaissance in flavor.  Flared, fluted piers brace its broad, paneled opening, surmounted by a dentilled frieze with medallions of the Sacred Heart alternating, again, with the crossed keys.
the open chapel vault
The flanking Gothic colonettes strike a medieval note echoed by the ribbed vault with the Franciscan cord. A choir loft spans the south end of the portería, and, at its north end, an arched doorway surmounted by an extravagant double alfiz of baluster columns gives access to the convento. 
Blocks of reddish black lava stone like those in the sanctuary arch outline the stocky cloister arcades. Archaic doorways with low Isabelline arches open from the cloister into the surrounding rooms.
A "mirador" at the rear commands a panoramic view across the monastery gardens to the islands and shimmering waters of Lake Pátzcuaro beyond.
See our other posts on the missions of Michoacán:  TupataroQuinceoZacánPomacuaránNurioSan LorenzoCocuchoNaranjaAjunoSantiago Charapan; San Sebastián CorupoTanaquilloSanta Clara del CobreTlalpujahuaArocutín; TzintzuntzanUruapanCapácuaroSan Nicolas de ObispoHuiramangaroTarímbaro, Jarácuaro; Arocutín; Ziracuaretiro;
text © 2019 Richard D. Perry
photographs © 1994 by the author except where noted.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Missions of Michoacán: Arocutín

Almost all of the village churches around Lake Pátzcuaro, in western Michoacán, were established in some form by 1600. At that time, though, the majority were simple visitas, subject to the Franciscan monasteries at Tzintzuntzan or Pátzcuaro, and most of the present buildings are later.

This small traditional village is located on the lakeshore opposite the ancient island shrine of Jarácuaro. The mission of La Purísima Arocutín, formerly a dependency of the larger monastery at Erongarícuaro, remains the center of community life, its atrium still employed and honored as the town cemetery.

The Facade
Although altered over time, the church front nevertheless retains its original, mudéjar influenced, form, typical of early colonial missions in Michoacán. 
An ample but plain doorway is still framed by the remnants of a rectangular, molded alfiz, and tiny shell reliefs—another regional marker—cling to the jambs.
A classic ajímez window, divided by a bulbous mullion, stands above the doorway, its arches formerly inset with reliefs, most likely more shells.
As with many other area churches, too, the refaced front is studded with a variety of limestone reliefs including the Papal tiara and crossed keys, Marian symbols: crown, sun, moon and stars, along with the acronyms of Jesus and Mary, and not least, a delightful Mexican eagle in vigorous popular style. 
A rugged stone cross is perched on a pedestal above the gable.

text © 2019 Richard D. Perry.  images courtesy of Niccolò Brooker

Please see our previous posts on the Missions of Michoacán: TupataroQuinceoZacánPomacuaránNurioSan LorenzoCocuchoNaranjaAjunoSantiago Charapan; San Sebastián CorupoTanaquilloSanta Clara del CobreTlalpujahuaTzintzuntzanUruapanCapácuaroSan Nicolas de ObispoHuiramangaroTarímbaro, Jarácuaro;  Ziracuaretiro;

Friday, August 23, 2019

Missions of Michoacán: Santiago Undameo

We continue our coverage of early missions in Michoacan at Undameo, located southwest of Morelia beside the Patzcuaro highway.
   Santiago Undameo, formerly known as Necotlan, was originally settled by Matlatzinca people from the eastern frontier of the Tarascan empire near the Toluca Valley.
San Agustín Morelia
Following the Spanish conquest of the region, the Augustinians established their initial priory in Morelia, of which Undameo was one of the first and most important visitas.
The present church, which dates from the 1560s, has been altered over the years, but the facade retains significant traces of its early design.
photographsby Niccolo Brooker
Thus, its lower section retains some of its original, and unusual, features. First the multi-layered molded doorframe is rounded in Romanesque fashion—a unique pattern for the region and atypical for Augustinian houses.
photograph by Niccolo Brooker
The doorway is flanked by finely chiseled, ornamental baluster columns in Plateresque style with no clear supporting function.
photographs by Niccolo Brooker
 Beyond these on either side are the lower remnants of what may have been an elaborate alfiz that would have extended above the entry. These surviving sections incorporate sculptural detail that incorporates a cord molding—a motif usually associated with the Franciscan rather than the Augustinian Order.
Another example of imaginative stone carving at Undameo is the grand baptismal font. A frieze of interlocking foliated relief rings the basin as well as adorning the base, although no religious insignia are evident.
A handsome Animas painting with the Virgin of Mt Carmel hangs along the nave.
Visit our earlier pages on the missions of Michoacán: San Nicolas de Obispo;  Naranja de Tapia; Charapan; TupataroQuinceoZacánPomacuaránNurioSan LorenzoCocucho AjunoSantiago Charapan; San Sebastián CorupoTanaquilloSanta Clara del CobreTlalpujahuaTzintzuntzanUruapanCapácuaro HuiramangaroTarímbaro, Jarácuaro;  Ziracuaretiro;
Text & graphic © 2019 Richard D. Perry
images by the author and courtesy of Niccolo Brooker

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Missions of Michoacán. Santiago Angahuan: the hospital chapel

We resume our survey of the early Missions of Michoacán with a follow up to our earlier post on the historic mission at Santiago Angahuan. We now look at the little hospital chapel there, with new pictures and details.
Angahuan, the Guatapera chapel
An integral part of every new mission, or pueblo-hospital, in western Michoacán was the guatápera compound, a traditional space for the use of the native purépecha people.
   At Angahuan the compound is located across road from the church on the north side of the atrium, and is now, appropriately, a vocational school for young indigenous women.
An essential component of the guatápera was its hospital chapel, commonly dedicated to the Virgin Mary. At Angahuan the chapel anchors the southwest corner of the gated compound, an austere building cut from volcanic stone with a tiled, gabled roof and a cylindrical stone cross in front. 
   Of special interest here is the Spanish legend expertly carved within the alfiz above the doorway. This dates its construction to the year 1570 and names as its benefactor Juan de Velasco, a canon of the cathedral at Patzcuaro. Velasco was a prominent priest attached to the cathedral who served in several parishes under Bishop Vasco de Quiroga, who was the moving force behind the founding of pueblo-hospitals in the 16th century.
   To our knowledge this dated inscription is unique among early hospitals in Michoacan: 

In 1986 a new wooden door for the chapel was carved by the late Simón Lázaro Jiménez, a local carpenter, storyteller and purépecha village elder, who also sculpted an intriguing house doorway across the main plaza graphically illustrating the 1943 eruption of the volcano Paricutín
He also wrote an anecdotal account of that momentous event, which he witnessed as a child.
See our posts on the painted chapels of Michoacán: San Lorenzo; Zacan; Nurio;

Visit our earlier pages on the missions of Michoacán: San Nicolas de Obispo;  Naranja de TapiaCharapan; TupataroQuinceoZacánPomacuaránNurio Cocucho AjunoSantiago Charapan; San Sebastián CorupoTanaquilloSanta Clara del CobreTlalpujahuaTzintzuntzanUruapanCapácuaro HuiramangaroTarímbaro, Jarácuaro;  Ziracuaretiro;
text & b/w illustration © 2019 Richard D. Perry
color image of inscription © Carolyn Brown by permission

Monday, August 19, 2019

Totolapan update

Totolapan after the earthquake
In an earlier post we reported on the substantial damage suffered by the 16th century church of Totolapan, Morelos, following the devastating 9/17 earthquake in Mexico.
We are pleased to note that restoration of the church front and convento is under way, although there is no word yet on the fate of the colonial crucifix formerly affixed to the gable.
Totolapan, the facade crucifix
Fortunately, the venerable colonial portraits of Fray Antonio de Roa hung inside the church are reported as safe and undamaged by effects of the 'quake.
text © 2019 Richard Perry
recent photographs courtesy of Robert Jackson ©2019.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Tlayacapan chapels update

In previous posts we reported on the damage caused by the 9/17 earthquake to the numerous barrio chapels of Tlayacapan, in Morelos.
   Although the damage was in most cases not dire, restoration of the affected structures has been largely completed including repainting.  Aficionado Robert Jackson has been documenting the effects of the 'quake and the repair efforts, and has kindly offered his recent photographs for use in our blog for which we thank him for his tireless documenting the earthquake in Morelos and its aftermath.
   Here we contrast before (l) and after (r) views of the chapels:
Altica. the fallen tower,                                   and as replaced
La Concepcion:                                    the restored belfry
La Exaltacion.                             the restored dome & belfry.
La Magdalena,                             the damaged belfry as rebuilt
La Natividad:            tower replaced & belfry repaired
San Martin.                  damaged facade and towers restored
Santiago.                  facade and towers restored and repainted
Santa Ana.                                                         belfry and chapel front as restored

San Diego,                                                  belfry and cracked front as repaired

text © 2019 Richard D. Perry
color images © Robert Jackson