Recinto de la Catedral

sights / Religious

Recinto de la Catedral information

Cuernavaca , Mexico
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Cuernavaca’s cathedral stands in a large high-walled recinto (compound) – the entrance gate is on Hidalgo. Like the Palacio de Cortés, the cathedral was built in a grand fortress-like style, in an effort to impress, intimidate and defend against the natives. Franciscans started work on what was one of Mexico’s earliest Christian missions in 1526, using indigenous labor and stones from the rubble of Cuauhnáhuac. The first structure was the Capilla Abierta de San José , an open chapel on the cathedral’s west side.

The cathedral itself, the Templo de la Asunción de María , is plain and solid, with an unembellished facade. The side door, which faces north to the compound’s entrance, shows a mixture of indigenous and European features – the skull and crossbones above it is a symbol of the Franciscan order. Inside are frescoes rediscovered early in the 20th century. Cuernavaca was a center for Franciscan missionary activities in Asia and the frescoes – said to show the persecution of Christian missionaries in Japan – were supposedly painted in the 17th century by a Japanese convert to Christianity.

The cathedral compound also holds two smaller churches. On the right as you enter is the Templo de la Tercera Orden de San Francisco . Its exterior was carved in 18th-century baroque style by indigenous artisans and its interior has ornate, gilded decorations. On the left as you enter is the 19th-century Capilla del Carmen where believers seek cures for illness.