The Casa del Dean, or The Dean’s House (a Dean is a cleric with much authority) was built around 1580, and it’s called like that because it was Tomás de la Plaza Goes’ house, and he was the Dean of the Cathedral in Puebla.
The building resisted time until the mid XX Century, when the house was sold. Most part of it was demolished and the rest, only two rooms, was used as warehouse. Layers of painting covered the walls, and one day the murals were discovered, but a movie theatre had been built and the murals of the rest of the house, if there were any, were long lost.
By 1953 the recovery of the murals began and the house was later opened for visit. They’ve been subject to multiple restorations, until in October 2010 the final and full restoration of the murals was completed, and the house reopened its doors.
The facade, in a renaissance style, with columns and a coat of arms on top of a balcony, is strong and beautiful, and it still makes pedestrians turn their heads. Once inside, you are immediately conducted to a magistral staircase reconstructed with original pieces. This stair will led you to a small hall, through which you’ll enter the two most magical rooms in Mexico.
The first room is decorated with representations of Sibilas, women who got from the God Apollo the gift of prophecy. They’re being part of a parade filled with color and symbolism. Each Sibilia is dressed as a XVI Century woman and has a banner with a prophesy about the passion of Christ printed on it.
Many animals, small characters, and vegetation are the background of this splendid sight. The frieze has fruits, flowers, kids and exotic birds. Another coat of arms can be seen there as well. You can also see that one of the windows was built after the murals were painted, for a Sibila is incomplete.
It’s uncertain what function this room served, but based on the little niche near to the door, some people think it could have been the dinner. This little niche connected to a log lost room, so we may never know how this room was used.
The next room was don Tomas’ bedroom and has on its walls a narration of a Petrarca poem: The Triumphs. This allegory talks not only about love, but human condition. It is about the triumph of love above men, but Love can be defeated by Death, who can be beaten by Fame, defeated in turn by Time, which give up before Divinity. The four walls of this room show artistically these ideas, and are again completed by images of fruits, birds, kids, and more.
The murals are beautifully made, but their importance come not only from their artistically value, but because these are rare and unique samples of non-religious mural painting in the XVI century in Mexico. Its importance lies in the fact that some of the topics depicted on the walls were considered forbidden by the church for many decades. In fact, there are the oldest murals with a non-religious theme still standing in America.
If you are in Puebla, you can’t miss this amazing spectacle. The visit won’t take you more than half and hour, and is just half of a block from the Zocalo, so it won’t take you out of your route. But believe me, it’s worth the visit.
[photos courtesy of Vica Amuchástegui]