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Group Title: Spanish architecture and its influence on colonial Mexico
Title: Spanish architecture and its influence on colonial Mexico - report
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00102594/00001
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Title: Spanish architecture and its influence on colonial Mexico - report
Series Title: Spanish architecture and its influence on colonial Mexico
Physical Description: Archival
Language: English
Creator: Myers, John H.
Publisher: John H. Myers
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 1977
Copyright Date: 1977
Subject: Architecture -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Architecture -- Caribbean Area   ( lcsh )
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Bibliographic ID: UF00102594
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.


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Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Title page
    Table of Contents
        Table of contents
        Page 1
        Page 2
    Part 1 : architectural styles in Spain
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
    Part 2 : Spanish colonial architecture in Mexico
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
    Slide list
        Page 31
Full Text


AE 675


Introduction 1

Part I Architectural Styles in Spain 3

Romaan 3

Visigothic 5

Moslem 7

Romanesque 10

Gothic 13

Plateresque 15

Renaissance 17

Baroque 19

Part II Spanish Colonial Architecture in Mexico 20

The Great cathedrals 25

Mexican Baroque 26

Mining Churches 28

Conclusion 29


Slide List



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

was major

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.


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.


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

original conditions.


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
London, 1938.

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).

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