The Lightest Christ Returned to His Temple
By Jesús Aguado
The Lord of the Conquest, the most ancient image in the city, a sculpture made of corn stalk paste, has been restored and returned to his altar. After the restoration, the sculpture could receive tribute for 450 more years and could also be included in processions.
The restoration of the Christ sheltered in the parish church (la Parroquia) of Saint Michael the Archangel, started in April this year. The intervention was performed by Dr. Pablo Amador Marrero from the Institute of Esthetic Investigations of the National Autonomous University of Mexico. During a ceremony held at the Santa Escuela de Cristo (a chapel adjacent to the parroquia) Amador Marrero held a presentation to explain how the restoration was performed on this image that was brought to San Miguel in 1560 for converting the Indians to Catholicism.
The restorer commented that by the end of the 17th century, the statue of Christ was attacked by a plague of moths which passed from the cross to the sculpture; the moths ate part the corn stalk paste as well as part of the wood. Amador Marrero asserted that the Christ has had multiple interventions in the past and they were not done with bad intention, but they were not the best because painting was not an adequate protection for the material in the statue. Many holes in the sculpture were painted over to simulate blood, and others were blocked with plaster and fabrics. The sculpture also had, before the restoration, an excess of soot and grease from the church candles.
The sculpture, which does not weight more than seven kilos, was totally deteriorated, but with the professional restoration that included covering a big hole in the back of Christ’s head, it could be used for 450 more years without major restorations. Marrero recommended avoiding placing flowers and candles close to the image to keep it free of humidity, fumes, and grease.
Parallel to the restoration, an historic investigation for the sculpture was conducted, and it will be presented in the third week of September or the second week of October. City historian Graciela Cruz was in charge of the project. Previously, she said that they were working with the manuscripts of two brotherhoods that had the Señor de la Conquista as a patron: the brotherhood of the Santa Veracruz in which the De la Canal and the Allende families were involved, and the Brotherhood of San Nicolás de los Naturales, which was made up of indigenous devotees.
The Brotherhood of San Nicolás de los Naturales used to hold a procession with the Lord of the Conquest every second Friday of Lent. The Christ was carried by the governor, district attorney and city councilors of the indigenous city council, also known as the República de Naturales. The procession passed through the main streets of the village at that time—the Viceroyalty did not exist until 1842. The procession used to leave from the church of St. Michael the Archangel and was followed by a small Christ that still exists, devotees from the communities situated on the banks of the Laja River, and those from the Concheros—people who nowadays pay homage to the Christ every first Friday of March.
Cruz said in addition that they have been consulting all the existent documents regarding the image, and they have found when and how the chapel dedicated to the Lord of the Conquer was built at the Parroquia.