In the state of Puebla there are three monasteries built in the XVI century. They are located in the municipalities of Huejotzingo, Calpan and Tochimilco.
These monasteries were declared Cultural Patrimony of Humanity by UNESCO in 1994.
This town was founded by the Olmec-Xicalancas, had its golden age in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. It is believed that upon the arrival of the Spaniards, the Lordship of Huejotzingo joined them to fight against Mexico-Tenochtitlan.
In 1524, the Franciscan friars built a convent in Huejotzingo, when the city was still in a place isolated by deep ravines; today this place is known as San Juan Loma.
In 1529, Huejotzingo moved to the site it occupies today and that first convent was demolished to build another with its stones, which also did not survive.
Thus, the convent of San Miguel is the third to be built by the Franciscans, between 1544 and 1570, under the direction of Fray Juan de Alameda.
On its exterior, the temple presents a mixture of Plateresque and Mudejar styles. The first style is expressed in the contrast of ample plain spaces with reduced ornamented spaces, as in the lateral facade, whose door surrounds a prolix decoration of leaves and thistles. The second is manifested, above all, in the ogee shape of the arch of the main door.
Inside the convent is the central altarpiece, one of the few of the XVI century that are conserved in Mexico, work of the Spanish artist Simón Pereyns.
Recommended: The Franciscan murals in the San Gabriel Convent
It also highlights the stone decoration of the door of the sacristy, which forms a mesh studded with flowers.
The former convent houses in its interior the Museum of the Evangelization, in charge of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).
In the profundis room there is a famous fresco painting, with the figures of the first 12 Franciscans who arrived in New Spain in 1524, headed by Fray Martin de Valencia.
In the atrium of the church you can stop to observe the chapels posas, built around 1550; they are called this way to serve to pose the Santísimo in the processions, although they were also used as chapels of Indians.
In its decoration, two Franciscan emblems are notorious: the shield of the five arrivals of the Lord and the cord topped by bangs, symbol of the noose with which Christ was tied to be scourged and of the vows of the order which are: poverty, obedience and chastity.
The municipality of Calpan is located only 34 kilometers from the city of Puebla.
This town is famous for the Franciscan temple of San Andrés, built in 1548, considered a bastion of colonial architecture for its iconography of its posa chapels.
On the left side of the temple is the first posa chapel, dedicated to the Virgin Mary; the figures that are displayed on its three free sides refer to the themes of the Assumption, the Annunciation and the Seven Sorrows.
The fourth chapel is dedicated to San Juan Evangelist; it is located to the right of the facade, with the figures of God the Father, evangelists in medallions and an angel. To the sides it has the Franciscan shields surrounded by monograms and angels.
In the right corner is the third pose, dedicated to Saint Michael, who appears in a panel with the devil at his feet, flanked by the archangels Gabriel and Raphael; on the other side is the Last Judgment, with Christ, the Virgin Mary, Saint John the Baptist and six men coming out of their tombs to be judged.
The scenes were taken from different engravings or prints; for example, that of the Virgin of the Seven Sorrows is from a French book of 1532 and those of the Last Judgment come from the Chronicle of Nuremberg of 1493.
These chapels are carved in stone with such mastery that a specialist like George Kubler, Art historian, affirmed that "in no other monument of the XVI century in Mexico there is such an elaborate decoration of relief scenes, as in these chapels".
The municipality of Tochimilco is a little more than 50 kilometers from the city of Puebla and just like in Calpan, the most outstanding attraction of this place is a Franciscan convent dedicated to the Virgin of the Assumption.
It was founded by Fray Diego de Olarte and was built in two stages, the first from 1530 to 1540, and the second from 1590 to 1600. The atrium is surrounded by a wall with battlements that give the impression of a fortress.
It has two elements that differentiate it from most churches of the period: its buttresses and the diagonal arrangement of the north buttress that contrasts with that of its tower parallel to the façade.
The façade is sober and has an open chapel, tower and belfry; the main doorway is designed with Renaissance elements and flanked by thin columns and the cloister has columns and lowered arches, a central fountain and remains of red mule decorations.
The temple has a nave with a flat roof and Gothic ribbed vaults. The open chapel is over the porter's lodge, it has a single arch and there is a pulpit at the base of the tower.
Read the Spanish version of this article here.