Tepotzotlan Tourist Attractions
Tepotzotlan Enrique Lopez-Tamayo BioscaHow to get thereFrom Mexico City by metro line 2 to Tacuba, and from there by bus in about one hour; by car on the MEX 57 northwards, after about 42km/26mi turn off to Tepotzotlán (2km/1.3mi).Tepotzotlán is a pretty little town dating from the colonial period, situated not far from Mexico City.
It was once a centre for spiritual instruction in New Spain. Today its convent houses a highly interesting museum of religious art, while the well-restored church is one of the jewels of Mexican Baroque architecture.HistoryThe Jesuit college of San Martín was founded in 1582 in Tepotzotlán (Náhuatl: "place of the hunch-back"), an old Otomí settlement, and built with the support of Indian caciques, using native labour. It was used for the instruction of the Spanish in the Indian languages of Náhuatl and Otomí and for the religious education of the sons of the Indian élite. In the 17th and 18th c. the convent was considerably enlarged. One of the most important patrons was Pedro Ruiz de Ahumada, who made possible the rebuilding of the church, which was named after Saint Francisco Xavier. It was newly consecrated in 1682, but not completed until 1762. With the expulsion of the Jesuits from New Spain in 1767, the college and its church passed into other hands. After Mexico gained its independence, the Jesuits returned to Tepotzotlán, though with less influence, and they remained there until the secularisation of the convents in 1859. In more recent times the convent and church were placed under the control of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia. Since 1964 a musuem of religious art has been housed in the former convent and in the church.
The façade of the convent church, which was basically built between 1628 and 1762, is, with La Valenciana at Guanajuato and Santa Prisca in Taxco, among the most outstanding examples of Churrigueresque style in Mexico. It was crafted by various artists between 1760 and 1762 and its harmonious arrangement of figures includes "estípites" (Eng. stipites = pilasters in the shape of a pyramid with the point downwards) at the top, niches with plinths and sculptures and medaillons with reliefs. The statue of San Francisco Xavier can be seen over the window while in the side niches there are statues of the saints Ignacio de Loyola, Francisco de Borja, Luis Gonzaga and Estanislao de Kotska, the most important personalities in the Jesuit order. The two-storey tower is also decorated with "estípites". The small tower set back to the left belongs to the Casa de Loreto.Passing through the convent the interior of the church is reached, its broad nave containing seven magnificent altars, predominantly carved in wood and painted in gold, displaying the typical Churrigueresque style. The high altar is in three sections and in its design is similar to the façade of the church. In the middle there is a statue of San Francisco Xavier while higher up in the centre there are especially expressive sculptures of the Immaculate Conception (high up in the middle) and John the Baptist (left-hand niche). The right-hand top part of the altar is dedicated to Luis Gonzaga, the left-hand part to San Estanislao de Kotska. The other altars, dating from between 1733 and 1758, are also remarkable, as are the chapels of San Ignacio de Loyola with sculptures of the order's founder, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe with a painting and frescos of Mexico's patron saint by Miguel Cabrera, Nuestra Señora de la Luz with a fine statue, and Nuestra Señora de Loreto, which contains a copy of the house of the Virgin Mary in Nazareth and a reredos with an early Italian statue.Adjoining the last-named chapel is an octagonal room, the Camarín, which ranks as one of the finest examples of Mexican High Baroque art. The hand of Indian artists can be detected in the shapes and composition of the retablos and of the ceiling. The figures of the archangels and the black oxidised representations in silver are remarkable. The early ribbed vaulting in the Camarín shows Mudéjar influence. The light entering through the alabaster windows contributes to the magnificent overall impression.Returning to the nave of the church we see on the right-hand side the chapel of Relicario de San José, which contains a painting of JoséIbarra and an especially fine small reredos.
National Museum of the Viceroyship
The building of the former Jesuit college today houses the National Museum of the Viceroyship (Museo Nacional del Virreinato). The Claustro de los Aljibes (Cloister of the Fountains) mainly contains oil paintings of Cristóbal de Villalpando.
Official site: www.virreinato.inah.gob.mx
Address: Plaza Hidalgo número 99, Tepotzotlán, Mexico 54600, Mexico
The Cloister of Fountains leads to the Capilla Doméstica (domestic chapel), in the gateway (portería) of which paintings by Miguel Cabrera can be seen. The chapel, dating from the middle of the 17th c., which was later restored, has vaulting with decorations showing the coats of arms of the six most important orders in New Spain. The altar with its sculptures, mirrors and pictures of Jesuit saints, is particularly interesting. To the left is the kneeling figures of the patron Pedro Ruiz de Ahumada.
In the many rooms and corridors of the museum there is a varied sequence of mainly ecclesiastical treasures from the 16th to 19th c. They come from all over the former viceroyship of new Spain and include sculptures, altar panels, and paintings by the most significant artists of the period, as well as furniture, porcelain, weapons and church implements of all kinds. Part of the premises is used regularly for concerts and theatrical performances.
Los Arcos del Sitio
About 27km/17mi in a south-westerly direction via San Miguel Cañadas, we reach Los Arcos del Sitio, an aqueduct on several levels erected in the 18th c. by the Jesuits for the water supply of Tepotzotlán. At 60 m (197 ft) it is the highest in Mexico.
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