México City

Altars and Retables
of Mexico City
by Edgardo Solano Lartigau
« San Bernardino’s de Sena Church».
Main nave, at the end the main altar piece. XVI century. The church was finished in 1590, later were built the dome and tower.
The building process of an altarpiece began with an architect design. Afterward the carpenter carved on wood the ornaments, columns and niches, then the carver performed the delicate details such as fallen leaves, grenades, and cherubs. The assembler joined the pieces that must fit perfectly. Then, the one who is in charge of plastering file the surface and cover it with a plaster fine layer. At the end it was gilded with the gold leaf technique sticking it to the plaster and covering it with a special reddish preparation that even today it might be admired.
Undoubtedly there is something that Mexico can show with pride are the altars and altar pieces that you may see in different temples. Well known scholars state that only in Mexico City there were more than 300 hundred altar pieces during the third quarter of the XVIII century spread in different chapels and convents. Unfortunately many of them were destroyed due to the Reform laws that affected the goods of the Mexican churches from last century. The pickax did not succumb, but were replaced by the new trends in the neoclassic architecture from the XIX century. This is a treasure that, fortunately, Mexico keeps with zeal.
« Iglesia de la Enseñanza Antigua»
A majestic canvas over the altar piece, painted by Andrés López in 1779. The theme is «Virgen del Pilar held up by a group of angels»
The direct predecessor of the high altar piece, lies in the small joists that were place at the back part of the altar in the primitive Christian Basilica, their objective was to show the parishioners the sacred relics.

The first missioners that arrived to Mexico brought portable altarpieces in order to officiate the mass meanwhile they built the huge monumental temples of the XVI century. Indigenous artists under the surveillance of the Spanish monks erected the first altarpieces.

There were special places where the indigenous learnt to engrave images and ornaments for the altarpieces. This is how from the third decade of the XVI century, the Mexican churches began to be furnished with altarpieces that at first had the renaissance style( an example is the Main altarpiece of San Bernardino’s de Sena Church , in Xochimilco)

«Metropolitan Cathedral» . The altarpiece of «The Three Kings», the Sevillian architect Jerónimo de Balb·s was gilt by Francisco Martínez in 1735. It is 25mts high and 14 mts wide. It is made of white cedar and ayacahuite wood. Churrigueresque

See other reportages in:
A space for a virtual tourism
Home / Main / Agency / Photographer / Services / Links
Awards / Gallery / Curriculum / Protected Area