The Church of Santo Domingo in Oaxaca

Things to Do, Whats New — By Vica Amuchastegui on February 26, 2011 at 11:23 pm

The Church of Santo Domingo de Guzman in Oaxaca, known only as Santo Domingo, is a one of the best examples of the Baroque Architecture of New Spain in México. Its construction began around 1551 when the Government of La Antequera de Oaxaca -the old name of Oaxaca City- gave the Dominican Order a land to build a convent within the city, with the promise that the Order would support economically the works of drinkable water supply for the Oaxaca.

The Dominican Complex, that included a Convent, a small University and a Church, was inaugurated in 1623, though the church decoration wasn’t finished until 1666 and the Rosary Chapel was built in 1725. There are many churches in Oaxaca, but none can compare to splendor and elegance of Santo Domingo. The facade was made with local quarry, that gives it a greenish shade, and it’s majestic and enchanting, but it is nothing compared with the inside.

Inside the church, the ceilings and walls become the scenery of countless gilded scenes, images and figures. The plaster statues and stucco figures are a gift to the senses, there are so many it’s impossible to know where to look. The yellow light shining through the stained-glass window casts a golden glow over the walls that’s impossible to describe, only being there one can admire the genius and uniqueness of the Oaxacan artisans and sculptors. The Rosary Chapel is a golden room with numerous painting of saints and virgins, but the family tree of the Dominican Order on the low ceiling on the entrance is the main feature of the church. Is just breathtaking.

The church, as well as the convent, have had a rough history. They were both used as a warehouse during the Independence War at the beginning of the 19th Century. They were also used as barracks for a while, and in 1866 when the government suspended the catholic cult, all the church belongings were seize until 1902 when the cult was permitted again.

By that time, the Dominican Order had left Oaxaca because of many problems with the government, but they returned in 1938 and regained control of the church and the convent. But the Dominicans were devastating when they witnessed the destruction their beloved temple had suffer. The altarpieces had been burned, the gold on the walls stolen and a latrine placed behind the main altarpiece.

The restoration work began soon after and by 1959 the new main altarpiece was ready. It has since become the most visited church in Oaxaca and one of the favorites among locals for weddings, quince años and christenings. It also the background for splendid pictures by tourists and photo amateurs. And it is, without a doubt, something you should visit when you come to Oaxaca, so what are you waiting? Come soon and don’t forget to look up!

[photos courtesy of oledoe, anjči, RussBowling and SanGatiche / Flickr]

Tags: Church, Dominics, Oaxaca, Santo Domingo