North America Mexico

Dominican priory and church


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A brief description.


The Dominicans arrived in the city Oaxaca in 1529 and quickly built a rude adobe chapel, dedicated to St. Paul (San Pablo), not far from the main square.

But because of poor construction and frequent earthquakes, the building soon fell into disrepair. The first prior, Bernardo de Alburquerque, O.P. (1547), decided by 1550 to built a new priory on a large tract of land situated on the heights above the city.  Although the priory was dedicated in 1575, construction dragged on until the end of the century.

The Bishop, López de Zarate, invited the Dominican Order to evangelize the region and established a chain of missions during the 1540s. With the help of native labour, they launched a building program, financed by revenues from the new silk and cochineal dye industries. In 1592, with 42 active missions in the region, the Order felt justified in creating the new Dominican Province of St. Hyppolitus in the Oaxaca Valley.


Then on 31 December 1603, just as the Dominicans were about to move into the new buildings, a catastrophic earthquake struck the city. Both the old mission of San Pablo and the new priory were severely damaged. The Dominicans were forced  to seek refuge in de priory of Cuilapan, outside the city. Finally, in 1610, they were able to move into their new quarters. Even so, the church was not finished until almost fifty years later (1663).


The church

The church with two towers has a façade traditional in style. The relief shows St. Dominic and St Hippolytus the Martyr holding up the church, the patron of the Dominican Province. Most of the original decoration of the church dates from the 17th and early 18th century. With the dissolution of the priory in the mid-19th century, however, the church was converted into an army barracks. When the church was returned to the Dominicans at the beginning of the 19th century, an ambitious  program of restoration began, spearheaded by Estéban Arroyo, O.P. and completed in 1976.

Source: Perry, Richard, D.:  Mexicos Fortress Monasteries. Espadaña Press, Santa Barbara, California 1992. ISBN 0-9620811-1-6.  P.165-166.o.c. p. 167-171


The priory

The priory, now the Oaxaca State Museum.

Renovation of the former priory and its galleries, better known as El Centro Cultural Santo Domingo, has been going forward since 1994 under the auspices of INAH (Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia) and several other national and state agencies, is now complete. Future installations in the priory precincts included the Library of Francisco de Burgoa, O.P.(ca 1600-1681).

The monastic garden is now the ethno-botanical garden of Oaxaca.  







The entire complex of the Dominican priory and church
in the city Oaxaca, built 1575-1663.


Mexico 1998, Mi 2712, Sc 1566a.




The portals and the cloister of the complex
of the
Dominican prior
y in the city Oaxaca,


Mexico 1998, Mi 2709, Sc 1566b.




The Library of  Francisco de Burgoa, O.P. He was born
in the city Oaxaca, end of July 1604, joined the Dominican
order in Oaxaca on 2nd August 1620 and received the
priesthood in 1627.
He wrote many books, known as
Geográfica Descriptión
and Palestra Historial in 1662. 


Mexico 1998, Mi 2710, Sc 1566c.


The monastic garden of the priory is now
the ethno-botanical garden
of Oaxaca.


Mexico 1998, Mi 2711, Sc 1566d.




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