San Francisco Acatepec may be one of the most beautiful churches in Puebla and is just 5 kilometeres (3 miles) from Cholula. This XVII century church used to be considered, next to Tonanztintla, the most beautiful church in America, but in 1939 a midnight fire destroyed all the inside.
The church was built by indigenous hands who carved outstanding wooden altarpieces and ornaments that covered the interior without leaving a empty space. Many artists came to San Francisco Acatepec to try to capture de magic once created by the natives of what now is the city of Cholula. Being made of wood, the fire consumed the church in no time; only the facade survived. But it was because of the attraction this place provoke in artists, that a reconstruction was possible.
Around 1920 an Engineer called Alberto Pani thought it would be a good idea to create a book with photographs and paintings of the most beautiful churches in the country. In 1926 a collection of six books called “Churches of Mexico” was published so the people could admire the places they may never even heard of. The pictures an experienced photographer took of San Francisco Acatepec were the one used for the 1941 reconstruction after the fire. The photographer’s name was Gullermo Kahlo, and though he was an acknowledge artist of his time, and still is one of the best photographers Mexico has ever had, he now is more famous for being the father of another important artist. Does the last name rings any bell? Yes, he was the father of Frida Kahlo. Kahlo’s photographs were the key piece for what we can see now. The inside is nowhere near the beauty it once was, but it’s still breathtaking (imagine then how the original was).
The outside however survived the fire and it stands as a sample of the amazing work of art the indigenous were capable of. The facade is totally covered by talavera tiles. It’s an exciting explosion of colors, patterns and shapes. The details are so many is almost impossible to pay attention to them all. One can spend hours admiring this church, and you’ll always perceive it differently. When the sun is up and shining the blue on the talavera is so blue, it almost matches the sky. When is cloudy the red sets on fire. It’s an amazing spectacle.
You surely must come. If you’re staying in Cholula, the touristic tram will take you. If you’re in Puebla a tourisitc bus will take you here as well. So there is no excuse. And remember that Tonantzintla, the most magic and beautiful church in Puebla, is just down the road from San Francisco Acatepec. So come and experience the indigenous work and prepare yourself to be bewitched as many before you.