SPANISH ARCHITECTURE AND ITS
INFLUENCE IN 00ILONIAL MYEKIC0
WINTER QUARTER 1977
JOHN H. MYERS
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Part I Architectural Styles in Spain 3
Part II Spanish Colonial Architecture in Mexico 20
The Great cathedrals 25
Mexican Baroque 26
Mining Churches 28
The subject of the paper is the influence of Spanish
architecture in Central and South America. Because of the breadth
of the subject matter, the paper is intended as a general
survey, beginning with a lookr at the development of architectural
styles in Spain and the influence these styles had in Mexico.
Mexico is chosen as a vehicle to examine Spanish Golonial
architecture because it was the site of intensive early activity,
the styles are more easily differentiated there, and the literature
covering this area is more abundant.
For some reason, the literature dealing with Spanish
architecture is somewhat limited when compared to the reams of
material on other western European countries such as Italy, France
and England. This is probably due to the traditionally conservative
nature of the Spanish, and the lack of initiative in producing
stylistic or technological innovations.
The styles of Roman, Visigothic, Hoslems, Romanesque, Gothic,
Renaissance and Baroque will be examined in order of their
histordeal introduction into Spain. Each of these styles will be
described and illustrated, but it should be remembered that these
styles usually existed side by side as indicated by the chart on
the following page from Bernard Bevan'a, History of Spanish
Architecture. As many as nine styles existed at one time in the
confusion caused by geographical division and foreign domination.
Although the Miosfem culture was a cohesive entity during its
existence in Spain, the Christian population could claim no
such distinction. For the Christians, there was no center of
cultural, political, spiritual or artistic forces, so ideas and
influences were imported from neighboring countries. Catalonia,
on the east ., weas near Italy and southern Frances Andulusia, on the
south, was nearest the Moors, and Castile, on the north, was both
physically and artistically close to the French. Bevan refers
to Spain as the n America of the Middle Ages" as he refers to
the influx of people from the more advanced European countries.
Eventually Spain would become united politically and
Ispiritually under Ferdinand and Isabella, and the frustration
resulting from centuries of domination would erupt in the
exploration and colonization of the New World. The impact of
this colonisaation on the art and architecture of Latin America
Styles in Spain will be considered from the time of the Roman
occupation until 1800, and the influence in Mexico will be
examined from the expedition of Cortes until 1800.
The Roman occupation of Spain was a part of their campaign
against Garthage and they did not pay very much attention to
the peninsula until they had successfully finished that campaign.
Then, however, the Rlomans invested a great deal of time and
money in the development of Spain. Many roads were built,
and the towns had temples, baths, courts and other Roman trappings.
Romne imposed her culture and amenities on Spain, so that in
architecture, the Roman style in Spain is similar to the style
in other parts of the Roman Emapire and in Rome itself. Some
examples of Roman building can be seen in the Aqueduct at Segovia,
the bridge at Alcantara and the theater at Merida, (the fourth
largest Roman amphitheater .
The imposed architecture of the Romans never caught on
with the Spanish, and little remains except for the above examples,
and some fortifications such as those at Lugo, where there were
forty-five foot walls made of late.
The key to survival of the Roman structures was the functional
use by the Spanish. The aqueduct and the bridge, which are used,
still remain in good condition. Basilicas and other structures for
which the Spanish had no use, have suffered demolition by neglect.
One of the few good examples of a Roman provincial town
exists at Mlerida. There is a bridge, an amphitheater (SLIDE 1),
a triumphal arch, two temples, a circus, two reserviors and
remains of three aqueducts.
The bridge at Alcantara, (SLUIE 1), crosses the River Tague
near Portugal. It is six hundred feet long and a maximum
of one hundred and eighty feet above the water. The six arches
are of granite and not held together by any mortar. The
largest span is about ninety feet. An arch atop the center
of the structure is dedicated to Trajan and is inscribed with
the names of the towns and villages which contributed to the
building costs. A small temple near one end has an inscription
which says that Carius Julius Lancer erected the bridge and that
it will last as long as the world, being dedicated to Caesar and
to all Roman Gods.
The aqueduct at Segovia is also granite without mortar.
The structure is two thousand, seven hundred feet long and the
scale can be perceived by the people and cars in the slide. Take
note of the double arch pattern here, because it is theorized by
some that this is the inspiration for the double horseshoe arches
of the type we will see in the MoslemI, Mlosque at Cordova, built
several hundred years later
The Roman occupation was interrupted when the Vandals,
Sueves and Alans crossed the Pyrennes in 4C09 A.D. and began a
decade of intense struggle for control of the peninsula. Rome
hired the Visigoths to clear out the invaders, and they were
largely successful in doing this. Rome rewarded the Visigoths
with settlements at Aquitaine, but by 476 A.D., they had spread
over the whole peninsula. Eventually they embraced the Catholic
faith and Roman laws, strengthened ties with Rome and became
like a satellite Roman state. The Visigoths occupied the
country for about three hundred years until the Moaleml invasion.
Not a great deal remains from the architecture of this period, and
much that has survived it the subject of vigorous debate as to
its actual origin.
It is felt that the Visigoths were largely unskilled
craftsmen who copied the Roman styles and simplified those
aspects which they could not duplicate. Two motifs attributed
to them were the cable border and the 'PMaltese Cross'. A
significant element was the use of the horseshoe arch, often
thought to be of a later Moslem period. The arch is used
in the church of San Juan de Banos, (SLIDUE 2,), which is the best
example of a Visigothic church. The fact is that the Romans
had used the horseshoe arch frequently, but only as decoration.
Examples of this can be seen in Pomspeii and other places. The
Visigoths, however, used the arch structurally. Research has
shown that there are two kinds of horseshoe arches. The
first is the ultra-semicircular type consisting of a single
curve, and the second is the exaggerated type consisting
of three distinct curves. The Visigothic horseshoe arch
is of the second type.
The Visigoths did not continue the use of the horseshoe
arch. In fact, the Visigoths did not continue themselves.
It is to their successors, the Moslems, that we owe the
continuing tradition of the horseshoe arch and its splendid
When the Mroslems attacked Spain in 711 A.D., it was
probably a rather normal exploratory conquest. However, they
were unexpectedly successful and captured Toledo and Cordova.
They reacted quickly and soon held the entire peninsula in
solid control. The Visigoths were forced to withdraw into
a tiny area in the north, called Asturias. It was from this base
that the fullest energies of the Christians would be directed
toward driving the Moslems back out of the country. It would
take the Christians about seven hundred years to regain what
the Moeslemls took in about ten years.
The Moslem culture was more advanced than the Christian
culture, and though each influenced the other, the weight of
the Moslema influence was the greatest. Under the Moslems,
Gordova became the intellectual center of the west. There were
many schools and universities and the story is that the entire
populations was literate. Highly skilled artisans were widely
recognized and many of their works remain preserved in Spanish
museums and cathedrals.
In the realm of architecture, however, little remains.
One of the finest pieces of early Moslem architecture was
the M~osque at Cordova, (SLUIE 3). This structure was begun in
736 A.D. and completed in the tenth century. The Mosque is built
with a large amount of Roman material, especially column, and its
character is largely determined by the use of this material. It
is also the use of this Roman material that, along with its
early construction, places it outside the five traditional
geographic divisions of M~oslem architecture.
The Mosque originally consisted of eleven aisles on a
north-south axis. Each aisle had twelve bays and an open
court at one end. The columns used in its construction came
from as far away as Africa, and as near as the cathedral which
previously occupied the site. From the tops of the columns
rose heavy rectangular pillars. The instability resulting from
the massive pillars over inadequate columns was handled by the
use of a range of horseshoe shaped arches, so the most widely
recognized aspect of M~oslem architecture was the re-sult of
coping with the use of inadequate columns. The arches are of
white stone alternated with red brick. The ceiling is flat,
and one interesting aspect is that the boards are laid
parallel to the supporting beams.
The Mosque was added to several times, and by 976 A.D. it
contained thirty-two aisles. Later, when Ferdinand took Cordova,
it became a Christian church and it was second in size only
to St. Peter's in Rome.
As the Moaque was at the beginning of the Moslem occupation,
the other great Moslem masterpiece came at the end. The
Alha~mbra at Granada, (SLIDE 1), was built after the Christians
had reoccupied most of the country, forcing the Moslemns to flee
to Morocco or Granada. The Alhamabra, which means red castle, is
said to be the finest example of harmonious, interior, plasterwork
decoration of its kind. The structure is very plain on the
exterior and gives no clue to the existence of the elaborate
decoration inside. The exterior walls are of adobe and are
covered with cements they are a tawny red in color. Although
located in a strategic position, the Albambra is not a real
fortress. It is a palace, or rather two palaces, built to
suit the tastes of wealthy successful rulers accustomed to the
finest quality in their possessions.
The interior is largely a wainsooating of colored tiles
and walls of plaster arabesques. Frieses bearing inscriptions
were the rule, and plaster was used for arches, stalactite
cornices, capitals and honeycomb vaults. Two techniques were
used in the plasterwork; in one, the design was applied to the
wet plaster and chiseled out when dry, and in the other method,
plaster moulds were used. Geometric and floral patterns were
used in the decoration, and inscriptions were common. Letters in
the inscriptions were elongated and shaped into designs, and the
phrases used would praise the builder or quote the'Koran. One of
the most popular quotes was, There is no conqueror but God. "*
This phrase was styled in a cartouche, placed diagonally in a
lozenge and applied liberally to the walls. Lanceria, a geometric
arrangement where straight lines form intersecting polygons, is
common in plaster and woodwork.
Although the Alhambra was the last great piece of Moslea
architecture in Spain, the deterioration of Moslem control in
the country had been in progress for centuries when it was
built. The Romanesque style had supplanted the Moorish in
mdost of Spain.
The Romanesque in Spain came from two quarters, Catalonia
and Gastile. It has already been mentioned thalt Gastile had
close ties with France, so it is no surptiise that the Romsanesque
style was introduced into Castile directly from France and in
full bloom. In Gatalonia, however, the influence came from
Northern Italy. The development of Romanesque in Gatalonia
was slower, but a more indigenous building style resulted,
not imported or imposed, but evolved.
The major construction advance of Riomanecsque was the
replacement of wood vaulting with stone vaulting. Slender column
were replaced by more massive pillars. An example of this style
is the abbey church at Ripoll, (SLIDE 57%' The church covers
twenty-seven thousand square feet, is two hundred and thirty
feet long, and has a transept of one hundred and thirty-four
feet with seven apses. The nave is one hundred and seventeen
feet wide and elongated columns alternate with massive piers in
a possible compromise between the old and the new. Column
capitals are Corinthiasn, but show a Moslem influence in that
they are elongated and finely chiseled. This church represents
the best in Catalan Romanesque, but shove no real innovations
such as the church of San Vicente de Gordona (SLIDE 5J, which
was begun in 1020 A.D. San Vicente exhibited vaults supported
by transverse arches on T-shaped pillars, and groined vaults.
The nave is raised high above the aisles and clerestory
lighting is used. The cupola in the crossing restsr on
squinches formed from spherical triangles. Another characteristic
of Romanesque is the square belfry or watchtower, five to six
stories high, usually four times as high as its breadth, having
no buttresses and the same girth along its entire height.
Castilian Romanesque, meanwhile, was stimulated by hatred
of the M~oslems and the fervor of the Benedictine monks at Clany.
The monks reorganized the church and called on the Pope for
assistance to drive out the Moslems. In the crusades which
followed, fourteen major expeditions left France for Castile
between 1050 and 1100 A.D.. Fifteen more expeditions followed
between 1100 and 1150, and great numbers of colonizing French
eame in their wake. The resulting invasion rather completely
obliterated the influence of Moslem architecture, and the major
churches were rebuilt in French styles. M~any of the
Romanesque churches of this style were built along the
pilgrimage routes at the stopping points. The typical plan
weas a three aisled nave of four bays, a trC~nsept not projecting
beyond the side aisles and three parallel apses. Barrel vaulting
predominated with no clerestory lighting.
An example of the late Spanish Romanesque is the old
Salamaanca Cathedral, (SLIDE G). Its most significant aspect is
the use of pendentives to support the cupola, one of only seven
examples in Spain. Note the juxtaposition of the Gothic of
the new Saltamanea Cathedral with the Romanesque of the old.
The Gothic style was ma~nitested after its acceptance from
France, mainly in the great cathedrals. Three noteworthy examples
are the cathedrals at Sevpille, Salamanca and the last of the
great cathedrals, at Segovia, (Slide 7).
Differentiating characteristics of the Gothic in Spain
were a flattening of the roof structures and a shifting of
the accent to the horizontal. Less window space was needed in
Spain and the clerestory lighting was dropped. The resultant
broader wall surfaces provided more space for decoration.
Spanish cathedrals were broken up apacially on the interior by
the capilla mayor and the coro* Some of the most Spanish of
the style occurred later, in the fifteenth century, when the
country's prosperity allowed increased building. The octagonal
lantern became a. feature in the later style
The Cathedral of Seville, (Slide, 8b), was begun in 1402 A.D.
and records indicate that the people thought future generations
would believe them mad for beginning a project of its sise.
Its interior was four hundred and sixty feet long, two hundred
and ninety feet wide. The nave rose to one hundred and thirty-
two feet and the side aisles to eighty-five feet. The Cathedral
is a parallelogram with a rectangular ambulatory and chapels
between internal buttresses. The thrust is strongly horizontal.
In 151i2 A.D., a new cathedral was begun at Salamanoa,
(SLIDIE 840. No have just seen how the finished product butted
up against the old building. Records show that the old cathedral
was kept to provide a place of worship during the new construction
and to avoid the cost of building a new belfry. No concern for
its history or architectural significance was recorded. The
new catthedral was much like Seville, although smaller, and the
nave was raised to provide clerestories.
Although the great cathedrals were of the age of the
coming to power of Spain as a world leader, the unification
of the country and the final defeat of the Moslems, the
architecture is not as powerful as one might expect in those
circumstances. The fact seems to be that the richness and power
of the country seemed to cause complacency on the part of the
architects. The result of this was, at any rate, a style truly
indigenous to Spain, and one which is more closely associated with
Spanish architecture than any other. It is called Plateresque.
The rich geometric designs in plaster, and the use of
colorful tiles in an extension of the Moalem influence, became
known as Mudejar. The word comes from an Arabic word meaning
"vassal", and refers to the architecture of the Moslems who
became Christians, or of the Christians working under the
instruction of Moslem craftsmen. The Mudejar style is recognized
by the, lacelike geometrical patterns, usually in brick or plaster,
but sometimes found on doors and ceilings of wood.
When the Mudejarr blended with the Romlanesque, Gothic and
Renaissance styles, and matured over several hundred years,
the result was a distinctively Spanish style known as Plateresque.
Much of the intricate detail associated with the Moslem art had
been in the fine patterns on their silver and gold plates and
medallions. The term plateresque was applied in a derogatory
manner by succeeding classic artists, and the argument was
heated as to which came first, the metalwork or the architecture.
It is felt that one reason for the development of this style
was a complat~ency on the part of the architects as the country
became richer and more po-werful. The complacency led to many
experiments in surface detail, instead of more substantive
structural innovation. An example is Salamanca University,(Slide, q).
The Plateresque developed in phases. In the beginning there
was a Madejar spirit in the decoration applied to basically Gothic
structures. Later Renaissance motifs were added to the decoration,
but they were still applied to Gothic structures, ( We will see
examples of this later in Mexico where it was prevalent in the
early monastic churchesr. Still later the Renaissance motifs
were applied to Renaissance buildings, with some retention of
the Gothic and Mudejar spirit.
The first phase, was called Gothic or Isabelline Plateresque,
and there are many examples of artwork and alterpieces in this
style, many bearing the heralds of Ferdinand and Isabella. The
use of heraldry can be seen in decoration throughout the Plateresque.
During the Renaissance phase, the influence of Italian sculptors
was felt, and can be seen in the use of portrait medallions,
garlands of fruit, candelabra and other objects.
The Renaissance period was kicked off in Spain by Charles V,
who, through an arrogance acquired from early wealth and power,
insisted on leaving his mark on everything: with which he was
associated. It was his decision to tear down the Alhambra and
erect a palace of his own. Although this decision was never
completely carried out, part of the Alhambra at Granada was
destroyed, and in it place was built a totally Renaissance,(SLUIE 10),
facade, the palace of Charles V. The facade was complete with
Doric columns and rusticated stonework on the lower level and
lonic columns on the next. The building was never completed and
remained butting up to what was left of the Alhambra.
During this time the Mosque of Cordova was largely torn
up and in its place a Gothic-Renaissance Cathedral was built.
The architect of the Hospital of Santa Crus at Toledo was
designing a cathedral for Granada, and after the foundations
were in, he was replaced by another architect who continued the
building in a Renaissance style. The result is a ribbed vault
ceiling over clustered Corinthian columrnag it is considered a good
adaption of a Renaissance plan to a Gothic plan. It became
popular and triggered the building~ of several cathedrals in the
same style which became referred to as "Granadine Renaissance".
The son of Charles V was Philip Ij who successfully kept
the Reformation out of Spain. This fact that Spain remained
Roman Catholic was most important in the development of
Spanish Colonial architecture. The style approved by Philip II
was a very cold classical style which can be seen in the
Escorial near Madrid. Sanford calls this building the dreariest
pile of masonry in all Chriatendome.R The builder of the Escorial
was made the Royal Building Inspector and the style continued in
Spain under Philip.
Following the High Renaissance of Charles V and Philip II,
which did not really capture the imagination of the Spanish
people, there was a Baroque reaction in which there was
unlimited variation and individualism. An example is the
Sacristy of La Cartuja, in Granada, (SLIDE II).
One of the key architects of the Baroque period in Spain
was Jose Churriguera. The Baroque examples of Churriguera himself
are generally restrained, but he had many followers, and they
began to range far afield in their experimentation. The result
wats a kind of ultra-Baroque style which to this day bears
the label Churrigueresque. Many examples of this elaborate
style will be seen in Mexico, and it is primarily in Mexico that
this style was continued after the Baroque went out of favor in
The Baroque was occurring in Spain at the time of its
successful effort in the new world and contains richness in
material as well as style. The Sacristy in the slide was
indlaid with silver, tortiseshell and ivory.
SPANISH COLO)NIAL ARCHITECTURE MIEXICO
Spain's activities in exploration and colonization began
under the rule of Ferdinand and Isabella, who united Spain
politically and spiritually. The country had been divided and
conquered by many people. Most of these occupation forces imposed
their rule and styles on the Spanish. The Moslemas had looted and
lorded, so the Spanish had learned from their experiences under
foreign domination. W~hen they were united under Ferdinand and
Isabella, they were strong and confident and ready for their turn
at the looting and ruling. This accounts for the often brutal
conduct of the Spanish during exploration and colonization.
They had been victimized and subjugated for over eight centuries,
and the overthrow of the Moslems at Granada was not enough to
satisfy their pent up aggression. Columbus returned to Spain
from his first voyage within a year after the defeat of the Moslems
at Granada, and the stage was set for a military and spiritual
conquest of the new world.
Columbus made subsequent tripe, and other explorer gained
a foothold in the west. Using Cuba as a base, many expeditions
were launched into the Yucatan, the Isthmus of Panama and Florida.
After several hostile encounters with the native inhabitants,
Cortes laid claim to much of Central America. Native religious
objects were destroyed and the Roman Catholic faith was introduced
to the populace.
When Cortes was involved with trying to meet Montesuma,
the leader of the Astees, he made an alliance with the Totonac
tribe and the first Spanish settlement in "New Spain" was
established. The settlement, La Villa Rica de la Vera Crus,
was built primarily out of stone, lime, wood and sun dried bricks.
The Spanish operated out of Vera Cruz until they completely
destroyed the Astees' provincial capital at Tenochtitlan.
Subsequently the Spanish destroyed the temples and had the
indians building churches and monasteries using material
from the old monuments and pyramids*
The first Spanish architecture in Mexico was Gothic. The
first conquest was military and the second and spiritual one
began immediately and gradually supplanted the former. Cortes
immediately asked for spiritual leaders from Spain to go
about the colonization. He did not want those who were soft
from an easy life in Spain, but he wanted dedicated clergy.
He got what he wanted in that the first order to leave for
"New Spain" was the Franciscan. After a four month voyage and
a one month trek on foot, the Franciscans arrived at Mexico
City and eventually a great religious complex grew up around the
Church of San Francisco. Very little remains of this early
complex which was destroyed by the growth of the city. One
chapel of the later Churrigueresque style remains.
The early monasteries were of the fortress type, made
necessary by the circumstances of the military conquest. An example
of an early fortress church is thr Dominican Mionastery at
Tepostlan, (SLID)E 123. The Gothic features of these churches
were structural, such as buttresses rising the full height of the
building, battlements along the roof, windows are high and widely
splayed, and Gothic rib vaulted ceilings, with some occassional
barrel vaulting such as in the Cathedral at Cuernavaea. These
were structures in a hostile land, they were afraid of the
indians and though they dominated them, they did so with caution.
During this early period the, symbols of the indigenous indian
culture did not influence the style and detailing of the Spanish.
Churches of this type may be found in Europe, but they are
much more numerous here. The building were enclosed in walled
atria, with a main central gate. The oldest church in America
can be found at Tlaxcala, built by Cortes. Two interesting points
are that it was built of stones from indian temples and pyramids,
and that it was built atop an existing pyramid, replacing the
Astec temple Cortes destroyed. Because of the large populations
of indians, it was necessary for the churches to be large,
especially in width, and a feature developed in America was
the outdoor chapel.
The early Franciscans built very simple buildings, but they were
soon joined by the Augustinians, who, although they built similar
structures, tended to be more elaborate on the interiors and the
portals. An example of each type mazy be seen in ~I~DE 13)with the
Franciscan on the left and the Augustinian on the right.
Another example of the early churches is the one at Acolmanm.
The building was subject to floodsr and finally abandoned, but the
government has excavated and restored it. High water marks still
reveal the fate it suffered. It is reputed to be one of the two
finest examples of Gothic in Mexico. It is a massive structure
with a vaulted ceiling and has blends of MoslemI and Renaissance
Plateresque. Some effect of the indian culture may be seen in
the subject matter at the portal. There are indians, carrying
baskets of fruit flanking the entrance.
An example of secular architecture may be seen in the residence
of Cortes at Cuernavaca. When Cortes captured the city, it was given
to him by Charles V. He subsequently mlade it his favorite
place to live, and he introduced a thriving sugar business to the
area. The stones used in the building look similar to the stones
in the first church built by Cortes, and probably were quarried
from Aztec structures. Two interesting features of this house
were the galleries and the murals by Rivera. The murals are
some of Rivera's best, and depict scenes from the conquest
of the area. The galleries became a very popular feature
and may be seen in many later houses, especially around Mexico
City. The building is now used by the legislature.
At this point a word abould be said about the religion of
the indians. Although the Spanish imposed the Roman Catholic
faith on the indians, and the initial period was marked by
suspicion and hostility, the basis existed for the indians
to accept this religion. The characteristics of color,
pagentryr and idolatry had great appeal to the indians. They
developed affection for the Catholic Saints, most of which were
portrayed with animals, which appealed to the indians. They began
to adopt and internalize the objects and pagentry. It is doubtful
if another denomination, especially some sects of the Protestant
Reformation could have had the ultiate success the Catholics
had. The success in this regard set the stage for a relaxation
of fear of the indians and increased influence of the indigenous
symbols of the indian culture into religion and architecture.
The result was the growth of a truly Mexican style.
THEi GREAT CATHEDRALS
As a result of the wealth that came out of M~exico for
Spain, Mlexico herself bagan to prosper. As Philip II came to
power in Spain, plans were being made for a new cathedral to
be in Mlexico City. The plans were made along the style of the
Renaissance, but Gothic structural principles were still relied
on. (SLIDE 14)3 The interior plan of the Cathedral of MIexico
City was prepared by Claudio de Arciniega, and consists of
three longitudinal naves, two of which have deep chapels. Except
for the sacristy there is an uninterrupted barrel vault, and
the aisles are roofed by quadripartite vaults typical of the
Renaissance. Special foundations were engineered to handle the swampy
subsoil. The nave was elevated to get light into the wide
structure and the side aisles were elevated above the chapels.
The structure was really built over seven generations, and
the influences of almost every style which has been discussed
may be seen in it.
Another of the Cathedrals was the Cathedral of Guadalajara,
dismissed as too bad to discuss by Baxter. The building, (SLIDE 15r),
is an example of Granadine Renaissance where Roman orders are
applied to a Gothio structure. The choir which usually blocks
one's view of the interior as a whole, has been removed in this
building. As a matter of fact, there have been many changes
and additions to this structure which has been destroyed and
rebuilt many times using many stylistic treatments.
Of interest in the Cathedral of Guadalajara, on the interior is
an original work of Mlurillo, entitled "Assumption of the
When the Baroque style came to Mexico, it seemed to be
well suited to the exhuberance of the people and it caught on
very quickly. Mexico City has many examples of this style, due
to its wealth.
The Church of S. Domingo at Mexico City is one of the best
examples of Baroque. The Church was dedicated in 1736 and
bears the dubious distinction of the headquarters of the Inquisition.
Several altars in the Churrigueresque style bear witness to the
opulence of the structure, but two fine chapels were torn down
when the city ran a street through on the west side of the church.
The Jesuit Church of La Profeasa is another example. The
building has a leaning tower and an excellent example of the
laceria decoration referred to earlier. A look at some of the
decoration on this church will reveal that the, indian symbols
are being used intermingled with the Spanish. The radiating
rays of sun symbols are conspicuous on the exterior.
The Church of San Hipolita was built between 1599 and 1739.
to commemorate victory over the Astecs. It was reconstructed in
1777, anid one of the interesting features is the diagonal placing
of the towers.
Outside Mexico City, one excellent example of Baroque may
be seen in the Church of Santa Domlingo at Oaxaca. Oaxaca is
a remote southern colonial city and was part of the estate of Cortes.
It is famous as the birthplace of Juares and Dias, and contains
many Baroque churches. The Church of Santa Domingo, (SLIDE 163
is one of the largest churches in the country and the interior
is a splendid example of Baroque. In his, The Story of Architecture
in Mexico, Sanford says, "...the decorative scheme is a great
tree with branches and leaves of gold extending in all directions,
while growing from the branches are figures wearing crowns. Placed
in niches in the domed ceiling of the loft above are busts of
saints, diminishing; in size .as the apex is reached, until, at the
top, only the faces appe~ar. The great barrel vault of the ceiling
of the single navre of the church, the arches leading to the
lateral chapels, and the ceiling of the large chapel of the
Virgen del Rosario are all completely covered with heavy gilded
ornament and polychrome sculpture in high relief, against a
background of white. The effect is positively breathtaking in its
An extension of the Baroque was the ultra-Baroque or Churrigueresque
which was mentioned earlier. This w was especially popular in
Mexico and in combination with the fervish building activity of
a wealthy Mexico, the style far outlasted its counterpart in Spain.
An example of this style in a facade was seen in the Sagrario
Metropolitan which stood adjacent to the Cathedral of Mexic City.
Most examples of this style, however, may be seen in the
interiors of the churches. The Churriguereeque exterior of, (SLIDE 17~),
the Church of San Francisco Xavier at Te~potsotla~n is suggestive of
the interior which was used as a theater for Baroque music concerts.
There are several examples of Churrigueresque in the town of
Tepoteotlan, which was occupied by the Jesuits. While the
Domlinicans are attributed with stimulating the Baroque in Mexico,
the Jesuits are considered the proponents of the Churriguereague.
While not a style within themselves, there is a type of church
built in Mexico which merits separate attention. Proof that
the form follows money adage is not new, several fabulous
churches exist in towns which were the source of the wealth
of Mexico. These churches are referred to as "Mining Churches*,
and the money that was available to build them was assurance that
an elaborate style would be followed. One of these very
Churrigueresque churches is located in the mining town of
Taxco, which is still famous as a silver center and contains
many artisans and shops dealing in fine pieces.
Jose de la Borda struck it rich in Taxco and determined
that he would put a substantial part of that wealth into
a church. The Church of San Sebastian and Santa Prisea was, (SLDE 161)
built over seven years at a cost of eight million pesos. Though
the facade is considered Baroque, the interior contains a dozen
Churrigueresque altars, elaborately carved of wood, heavily gilded
and covered with multicolored figures, all preserved in their
It should be obvious that the Spanish were dominated
and influenced by a variety of forces and that the architectural
history of Spain is commensurately varied and rich. Of special
interest is the simultaneous progression of several styles of
architecture, as opposed to the typically sequential evolution
of other countries.
It is this coexistence of accepted style which, when imposed
without challenge or interruption into the "New Spain", and
nourished by the rapidly growing wealth of the country, is
responsible for thegreat number and variety of architectural
examples in Mfexico. It is due to the successful adaption
of the Roman Catholic religion, once it had been imposed,
that most of this architecture is religious.
Many of the great examples have been lost, but many
have been rebuilt when destroyed, and now the government is
concerned with the protection and preservation of the
invaluable heritage, ( and tourist attraction). Hopefully the
treasure of Spanish Colonial architecture will be available for
enjoyment and study for many decades.
Annis, Verle. The Architecture of Antiguua, Guatamala, University
of San Carlos Press; 198
Baird, Joseph. The Churches ofMexicor 1530 1810, University
of California Press; Los Angeles, 192
Beachamn, Hans. The Architecture of Mexico, Yeaterday and Tody
Architectural Book Publishing Co*I New York, 199
Bevan, Bernard. The Historyr of Spanish Architecture, Batsfords
Castedo, Leopoldo. A History of Latin American Art and Architecture,
Praegert New York, 19.
Calvert, Albert. Spgin, Batsfordt London, 1 924.
Hamlin, TaLlbot. Architecture Through the Ages, Putnam Sons;
New York, 1944
Kimball, F. and Edgell, G.HI* A Histo~ry of Architecture,
Harper Brothers; New York, 1918:
Sanford, T.E.. The Story of Architecture in Mexico, Nortons
New York, 1947.
Sturgis, Russell. A History of Architecture, Volume 1 and 2,
Doubleday and Page; New York, 1915*.
Van Pelt, John. Masterpieces of Spanish Architecture,
Pencil Points Pressi New York, 1925*.
Whitehill, Walter M. Spanish Rom~anesque Arch~itecture ,
Oxford University Press; London, 1941.
1. Amlpitheater at Merida, (bot), and bridge at Alcantara, (top).
Bevran, Bernared. History of Spanish Architecture, page 3.
2. Church of San Juan de Banos, interior. Ibidr, Plate IV.
3. Mosque at Gordova, interior. Ibid., page 26.
4. Alhamibra at Granada. Ibid. page 99.
5* Abbey Church at Ripoll, (top), and San Vicente de Cordona, (bot).
Ibide, page 51C*
6. Old Balamranca Cathedral. Ibid, page 62.
7. Segovia Cathedral. Ibid., page 131.
8. Seville Cathedral, (bot.), and New Salamranaa Cathedral, (top).
Ibid, pagle 128.
9. SalaImanosc University facade. Ibid. page 1145*
10. Palace of Charles V. Ibidr, page 150O.
11. Sacristy of La Cartuja at Granlada. Ibid., page 160.
1.Domainican Monastery at Tepots~otlan. Sanford, T.E,.
The Story~ of Architecture in M~exico, page 110.
13. Franciscan and Augyustinian Monasteries. Ibid., pagel10.
14. Cathedral of Mexico City. Ibid, page 142.
15. Cathedral of Guadalajara, (righ~t). Ibid,, pge 142.
16. Church of S. Domingo, Oaxaea. Ibid., page 174.
17 San Francisco Xavier, Tepotsotlan. Beacham, Hans.
The Architecture of M~exico Yesterday and Today, page 18.
18. Mining church of San Sebastian and Santa Prisea. Op. cit., page 206.
NOTEs Slides should be placed in the projector with the label
to the rear and the slide number so that it may be read
corre~ctly, ( upright).