Wednesday, May 27, 2015

San Francisco Chruch, Queretaro

The first missionaries in many parts of the Nueva Espana were the Franciscans. This is the Church of San Francisco. Construction started in 1550, but it was not finished until the early part of the XVII Century.
The style of the Church of San Francisco is an austere baroque. On the façade, beside the bell tower, we find the clock and the relief that shows Santiago Matamoros. In his name, the Franciscans name this city, Santiago de Queretaro. Santiago is Spanish is actually two words in one, Sant and iago. Sant means Saint and Iago was the Hebrew word for James. According to the customs and beliefs, the Apostle James died in the northwestern part of Spain, in a place now called Santiago de Compostela.
The Spaniards believed it was Santiago who helped them win their centuries old  conflict with the Mores. That is why Santiago is named Santiago Matamoros, or James, the Slayer of Mores.

Franciscan churches are elegant in their simplicity. This is the case of San Francisco, Queretaro. It has a warm feeling, and even the poorest Indians that come walking for hours from far away villages feel at home. Sometime, I believe Europeans never understood Saint Francis, but humble Mexicans seem to understand him perfectly. Saint Francis was a radical It is said that the Pope, Innocent III, didn't know what to do with Francis, to excommunicate him or canonize him.

Giotto drew a painting of Innocent III sleeping or having a nightmare about Saint Francis. Giotto always a great sense of humor, and the painting shows the Pope sleeping, while the Church outside his bedchamber is so slanted that it looks like a ship sinking into the sea, except, that in the corner, Saint Francis appears, and supports the faltering structure;

Saint Francis was a very large figure in the Church during the XIII century. His followers, the first missionaries of the Nueva Espana, like Motolinia, were larger than life. Even Landa, with his unforgiveable act of burning the Mayan Codex, was a man who tried to do everything possible in the Yucatan to bring two cultures together into one. We saw this in Izamal, near Merida, Yucatan, where he built a Basilica, on top of the Pyramid of Izamal. The Mayas come from all over the Yucatan peninsula in pilgrimage to visit the Virgin of Izamal.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Ex Convent and Church of Santa Clara, Queretaro.

After the great conquest in 1520-1521, Hernan Cortes most formidable challenge was the tribes that rules in the regions north and west of Tenochtitlan. Just as the alliance with the tribes of Tlaxcala proved to be the key to defeating the Aztec Empire, the peace treaty that Cortes negotiated with Conin, the chief of the Indians that ruled the territory in and around Queretaro, proved to be essential in consolidating his hold over the entire country that today we call Mexico.
Carlos V, King of Spain, considered Conin an important vassal and ally of his Kingdom. Conin and his family were considered by Cortes and by Carlos V as part of the nobility of the Nueva Espana, and not as ignorant and savage dupes. His Granddaughter, would become a nun, in the first Franciscan Convent established in Queretaro, and she would be the abbess of superior of the Convent for the rest of her life. This was the Convent of Santa Clara of Assisi, the founder of the female congregation of the Franciscans.
Diego de Tapia was the son of the great chief Conin. Diego's daughter Luisa was the founder of the Convent of Santa Clara in 1607, and became the convents first Abbess.  For over 250 years, the Convent of Saint Clara was very prosperous and occupied 3 city blocks. 
During the presidency of Benito Juarez, the laws of the Reform were enacted and enforced, requiring that the properties of the Convents and Monasteries be turned over the government, and foreign priests be expelled from Mexico, and Mexican monks and sisters were required to leave their convents and return to their homes. In many cases, these nuns had no family to return to, nor a place to leave. The Convent of Santa Clara was closed in 1862, but many sisters returned over the following months, and the convent was closed permanently the following years, and none of the sisters were allowed to remain. Some surviving nuns were still alive in the following century, and some of them had no place of their own to live their final years of life.

The only surviving section of the huge monastic complex of Santa Clara today is the Church, and is an eloquent sample of the beauty of the Baroque style in Queretaro and in the Nueva Espana.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

San Agustin, the Church of Queretaro

Beside the ex Convent of San Agustin of Queretaro, of which we visited in this blog yesterday, which nowadays houses the MAQRO or Museum of Art of Queretaro, the Church of Saint Agustin, the building next-door, is still a functional building of the Catholic Church, where Mass and other Sacraments are offered everyday. In the XVIII and in the first half of the XIX centuries, both buildings were part of the same complex operated by the Order of Saint Augustine.
Façade of the Church of
San Agustin, Queretaro
Cornerstone of the Arch of the Main
Poetical with stone carved iconography
rich in spiritual meaning

View down the street of Pino
Suarez at the corner of Allende.
On the right you can see the steps
of Saint Agustin. A block down,,
you can see Santo Domingo on
the right hand side of the street.
Main Altar of Church of
San Agustin with flanking
Who was Saint Augustine? This blog is not the most appropriate place to write Saint Augustine's biography, but here are some facts about his life that most of you already know. He was born in the IV century, in Hippo, north Africa, son of a rich Roman noble and his mother was Saint Monica. Augustine converted to Christianity, and became the Bishop of his city. He became the most influential Christian Philosopher and Thinker of the early V Century, helping to merge doctrinal disagreements between many factions of the new growing Christian community. His Philosophy is considered by scholars in Theology to represent a Christian version of New Platonism, whereas, many centuries later, Thomas of Aquinas, would represent the new Christian version of Neo Aristotelian Philosophy.
Main aisle of Church with
flanking side altars.

Children's  Choir of San Agustin
organizes concerts at Christmas time.
The church of San Agustin is like a beehive, with something special always happening. At Christmas time, the Children's choir and orchestra hold free concerts inside the church. During Lent, the ministers, mostly Augustinian priest, read the Gospels relating to the Birth of Jesus, and between readings, they play the Salter or Saltareio as it is called here.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

San Agustin, ex Seminary of the Agustinian Congregation in Queretaro

The Ex Convent or Ex Monastery of San Agustin (Saint Augustine), in Queretaro is a excellent starting point to begin to enter into the  Baroque world of Nueva España in the first decades of  the XVIII Century. This was to be their major house of formation in the region covering the modern states of Michoacán, Guanajuanto and of course Queretaro.

When we thing of the Baroque, we think primary of religious themes in the forefront, while the neoclassical motifs of the Renaissance have been put to rest. Here in Queretaro, the Baroque and the Renaissance seem to live happily together here in this illustrious courtyard, as the principle hosts are a serial of Hermes, that form the pilasters of the archways both on the bottom as on the top floor, carved in beautiful red cantera stone, the hallmark building stone of the region.

These Hermes on the both pilasters represent man in different stages of life...youth, maturity and old age. The more mature the person, the more they set their glance higher, and further away from the temptations of carnal pleasures.

The mature seem to want to leap from their pedestals, in search of the pleasures of the spiritual world, the world the once Bishop of Hippo, Saint Augustine, invites us to reach in his Confessions. The first level of the building was reserved to the Study of Philosophy.

The Second floor of the building was for a more elevated level of Study...Theology. Here the Hermes represent the Ministers of the Church that were to be formed there, as intermediaries between common folk and believers of the Church and God.  

All these anthropomorphically designed sculptures in the second floor contain flutes or horns, by which rainwater can pour off the flat roof of the seminary into the courtyard. Each figure has his thumb and index finger crossed in the same way as the celebrant of the Mass, the priest, during the moment of the consecration of the bread and the wine.


The arched passageway of the second floor looks out onto the courtyard below, and

A sample of the skillful stone carving  in the pilasters of the second floor.


The centerpiece of the Courtyard of the Seminary
of San Agustin...The Fountain.
The Flight into Egypt, Juan Rodriguez Juarez
The seminary as such was turned over to the civil authorities as a consequence of the Laws of the Reform promulgated by Benito Juarez in the decade of the late 1850s and 1860s. Today it is the MAQRO or Museo de Arte de Queretaro, the Queretaro Art Museum. The permanent collection holds some great masterpieces, particularly of the Mannerist Artists. One of my favorites is Juan Rodriguez Juarez, with his Flight into Egypt, that you can see below. I do not want to draw your attention from the look of loving kindness of Saint Joseph, nor that beautiful young mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, nor from the tender child in arms, Jesus. However, for all the people I have always talked with at the Museum, and on this point I concur, the center of this masterpiece is the donkey. As you move around the painting, he follows you with his eyes, and his face strikes a different pose, if you look at him from the left or from the right. Rodriguez Juarez mastered this typical popular trick of the Mannerist school of painters of Europe, such as Mantegna and Giulio Romano, when they did their masterpieces in Mantua, that we discussed two weeks ago.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Back to Mexico, to Colonial Queretaro, the City of Fountains.

Road of Faith and Art, after our pilgrimage to the palaces, churches and cathedrals of Mantua, and then on through the Brenner Pass to Innsbruck, is back to Mexico, to give you over the next several days a series of reports on the history of the churches of Queretaro, as well as its fountains and aqueduct.
Aqueduct of Queretaro
Aqua est vita! Water is life, and its scarcity is the end of life.. When the Papacy wanted to breath new life into Rome during the late XVI Century, and the XVII century, one of the strategies was to repair its ancient aqueducts and to create a series of beautiful fountains, In this sense, Queretaro is Rome's twin city of fountains, aqueducts and plazas.
In the 1720s, the construction of the Aqueduct of Queretaro, started as a love store, or rather the story of a spurned lover. The marquis, Juan Antonio de Urrutia y Arana, fell in love during his youth with a beautiful woman. Even though this woman became a Capuchin nun, and the marquis was happily married with another woman, the marquis always felt a special devotion to his first love. He approached her, many years later, and told her that he respected her decision, and that if he could ever do anything for her, to ask him for it. Her response was a simple word, agua, water.
Always a man to honor his word, the marquis dedicate a large part of his considerable fortune to solve  the problems of the lack of water in the higher neighborhoods of the city, in an effort that took some 10 years. The aqueduct is 1300 meters long, and at some points it reaches a height of 28 meters. The aqueduct was finished in 1738 and ever since has brought spring water from across a ravine, and solved the problem of the fresh water in Queretaro.
The next step was to create a network to bring fresh water to the access of every household in Queretaro. The solution was the creation of many public fountains throughout the city, from which watermen would carry house to house in carts, with terracotta vases. 

Baroque granite fountain 
ex Seminary San Agustin,
Neptune Fountain,
Outside Santa Clara,

Guerrero Park
Once part of the Convent
Santa Clara, Queretaro

The Cello Player Fountain
Behind San Francisco Church

The strings of the Cello are spurts of
fresh water in the fountain.


Estela at the Fountain
of Neptune.

This fountain in outside the Church of
Fray Junipero Sera

Fountain in the ex convent of
Santa Rosa Viterbo 

The dancing Indian Fountain
Outside San Francisco Church
Fountains and gardens inside
Santa Rosa Viterbo ex Convent