The former convent of Santa Monica became the Museum of Religious Art in 1935, after the ex claustration of the Augustinian Recollect nuns in 1934 by the Reform Laws, and was among the first to be incorporated into the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).
This museum is located in the center of the city of Puebla, in the 18 Poniente #103. Its importance is since it was the first museum in Mexico dedicated to the feminine religious life and the only one in the State of Puebla where there is a collection of Sacred Art of the XVI-XIX centuries.
This collection is composed, mainly, by four collections of former female convents of the city: Santa Monica (Augustinian Recollect nuns), La Soledad (Discalced Carmelites), Santa Catalina (Dominicans) and Señor San Joaquin and Santa Ana (Capuchinas).
History of the Convent
The building was built in the 17th century first as an orphanage and to give refuge to the wives of the Spaniards and later became the convent of the Augustinian order.
Next to this monastery was built a small church for lonely women known as the Templo de Santa Monica, where the "Señor de las Maravillas" is located, of which the people of Puebla are very devoted.
After it was discovered that the nuns were violating the laws of exclaustration, they were given 48 hours to abandon the convent, leaving behind a priceless collection of religious art, which became a cultural heritage of the nation and humanity, according to the declaration granted to the Historic Center of the city of Puebla by UNESCO.
Between 2006 and 2011, the museum underwent a restoration for visitors to learn about the way of life of the Augustinian recollect nuns through paintings, sculptures, books, ceramic items and liturgical objects.
This museum has two floors and is composed of 23 permanent exhibition rooms, divided by theme and site, also has two courtyards: the Professed and the Novices.
In the 13 rooms that make up the upper floor it is possible to learn about the spiritual life through paintings by local artists, manuscripts and music.
This construction has the most complete feminine religious architecture of Puebla, due to the modifications that were made between the XVIII and XX centuries.
In it can be observed, especially, the Puebla baroque style, in the facades of the Patio de Profesas covered with talavera and petatillo tiles and the neoclassical style on the main facade.
Theme of the works
The two main themes exhibited in the museum are female conventual religious life and the function of images in the viceregal era. In its rooms are both the rules and constitutions of the nuns and the Reform Laws.
The daily life of the nuns is shown in the 10 permanent rooms on the first floor, where there are: the introductory room, the viceroyal Puebla de los Angeles, pleasures (site rooms), kitchen and pantry. In the Refectory you can see: the chapter room, library, lower anteroom and lower choir.
On the upper floor you can see the high antechorus, high choir, the corridor of Saint Augustine with oil paintings depicting the life of the saint, the cell, hagiographic passages, allegories and sponsorships, the velvets of Rafael Morante, the Marian Room, the Crowned and mystical nuns.
The Museum of Sacred Art has a unique collection of paintings, religious objects, documents, stewed sculptures (dress and wax), textiles and embroidery made by the nuns and a female convent library with liturgical objects. In addition to the art gallery of the Puebla school of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
In this museum there is a great variety of cooking recipes such as the typical dish of Puebla: chiles en nogada, which is said to have been created in the former convent by the Augustinian nuns.
Translation by: Karla Giselle Bonales Ramírez