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Augustinian Temple of San Juan de Sahagún in Salamanca, Guanajuato

By Magdalena Copado

This architectural site, which dazzles everyone who has the opportunity to see it and which was one of the great Augustinian priories in Mexico, is known as St. Augustine by the local people, but actually has a different name. The church is St. Augustine, but the monastery is named San Juan de Sahagún, in honor of the Patron Saint of the City of Salamanca, Spain, joining again both Salamancas. The other name was given by the viceroy (Gaspar de Zúñiga and Acevedo, fifth Count of Monterrey, born in Salamanca, Spain, in 1560), who authorized the founding of the town of Salamanca.

Architectural Tour
Augustinian Temple of San Juan de Sahagún
Salamanca, Gto.
Tue, Dec 27
Tickets: La Tienda of La Biblioteca

The Augustinians are a religious order, originally called Hermits of St. Augustine, that developed in Spain at the end of the 15th century and arrived in Mexico in May 1533, being the third religious order to appear, after the Franciscans and Dominicans. At first they were located mainly in what today is the state of Hidalgo. They then passed to the present Michoacán, and consequently they were established in Salamanca. Since here was a sort of border between Tarasco and Otomi territories, the Augustinians, being in both territories, dominated both.

On March 26, 1615, Father Fray Juan de San Nicolás founded the monastery with the permission of the authorities of the town of Salamanca, as well as of the provincial mayor, to build one of the richest Augustinian centers in New Spain. Salamanca was a small town, only 12 years old, and dedicated essentially to the rearing of cattle.

Don Jose Rojas, a great historian of Salamanca, writes glowingly of the church of St. Augustine and its magnificent altarpieces, the largest and most ornate, though not necessarily the most interesting, in all Mexico.

For a long time, we did not know the origin of these altarpieces, but fortunately the mystery of that, as of other baroque works of art, began to be solved with the 1952 discovery of a contract dated May 4, 1768, about the altarpieces.

“Admirable also is the wooden pulpit with inlays of bone and other materials and the ladder with a painted railing from the 18th century but unfortunately badly treated. In the sacristy there is a chest of drawers repainted barbarously with rough paint, probably 60 or 70 years ago and without its original handles. Much more remarkable is a large carved table with innumerable drawers for missals, body, chalices, etc., which has at its center a large receptacle with the shape of the Augustinian heart, also awkwardly repainted in modern times.” (Comment by Don José Rojas.)

Just coming to Salamanca to see the Church of St. Augustine is worth the visit. During the day, light filters through the stained glass windows, creating an atmosphere of mysticism that grows with the impact of its rich decorations. At night, when all the lights are turned on, the panorama is transformed, giving an impression difficult to forget.

This is some of what we will see on the Tour of Haciendas next Tuesday, December 27. Tickets are on sale in La Tienda of La Biblioteca.

We suggest that if you decide to visit the Temple of San Augustine in Salamanca, give yourself sufficient time to admire each of its details calmly, particularly the altarpieces with their three-dimensional sculptures representing different scenes of sacred


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