Iglesias of San Miguel de Allende
By Jade Arroyo
Take a stroll through the most emblematic churches in the Historical Center. Here you will find places with stunning architecture and full of history.
Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel
Almost immediately after the foundation of the town of San Miguel el Grande, today San Miguel de Allende (1555), the parish church was built. According to a document from 1649, the church of San Miguel el Grande collapsed after severe deterioration. In 1680 and 1690 the church was again in ruins, so another architectural project that culminated in 1709 was launched with the appearance of a Baroque-style facade, totally different from the Gothic Revival style that we appreciate today.
Between 1880 and 1890, a master stonemason in the city, Don Zeferino Gutiérrez, (apparently at the request of a bishop) built a new facade according to the artistic style of the time inspired by the great architectural works of Gothic-style medieval Europe. During the 17th and 18th centuries the niches, the choir window, the atrium, the bell tower clock, and the altars of the interior were transformed.
Temple of San Francisco
The venerable church of San Francisco was partially paid for by donations from local families and partly by funds acquired through bullfights. The building was under continuous construction for 20 years. The first stone was set on June 29, 1779, and the church was completed on April 13, 1799.
The church’s appearance suggests the spartan simplicity of the Franciscans who built it. Although there are some excellent paintings and murals, the main interest is in comparison with the church on the side. The two are a century and a half apart, and one can see the change from a pioneer society to a community at the summit of peace, prosperity, and despotism—soon to be broken by the revolution.
Templo de Nuestra Señora de La Salud (Temple of Our Lady of Health)
Primitive stone work adorns the graceful facade. Niches around the main doors are dedicated to San Joaquin, Santa Ana, the Sacred Heart, and St. John the Evangelist. The statue located just above the entrance honors the Immaculate Conception. Notice the excellent local iron work and the corona wooden doors. The overall design is often called churrigueresco, a term developed in Spain between 1688 and 1700, describing an extravagant style of architecture. It is a pretentious word and overused for any unidentifiable thing, but indicating luxurious and Spanish. The facade is really simpler and cleaner than the term implies.
Oratorio San Felipe Neri
The Oratory has a much more indigenous style than the other churches downtown. More than 250 years ago, it was an Indian chapel. When the Spaniards asked the Indians to give their church to the order of San Felipe Neri, they rejected in writing. When the scroll was opened, all writing had disappeared and the Indians, thinking it was a miracle, relented. In an altar to the right of the corridor is an 18th century painting by Michael Cabrera, and a gallery contains fine works of other old masters. Thirty-three oil paintings depict the life of San Felipe Neri in severe terms.