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.

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