North America Mexico
Dominican priory
and church


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A brief description.


With the fall of Aztec empire the city Yanhuitlán submitted to Spanish rule virtually, without protest. The leading Spanish settler and encomendero was Francisco de Las Casas. He established a close alliance with the native lord, who took the Christian name Gabriel de Guzmán.

Although the Dominican mission was established in Yanhuitlán early as 1538, Francisco de Las Casas and Gabriel de Guzmán resented the friars’ presence and refused to give them assistance. The Dominicans left Yanhuitlán for ten years and devoted their energies to building the priory at nearby Teposcolula.

At the end of his life Francisco de Las Casas provided generously for the construction of a splendid new church in 1546.  In 1548  the Dominicans returned to Yanhuitlán, and the young Gonzalo de Las Casas embraced the project to build a priory with church, sending to Spain for artists and skilled artisans. The design and construction were supervised by Antonio de Serna, O.P. and Francisco Marín, O.P. Assigned to Yanhuitlán in 1550, these peripatetic friar/architects also worked at Teposcolula and Coixtlahuaca. The foundation stone was laid by Gonzalo de Las Casas. Construction continued for more than twenty years, with crews of 400 to 600 workers.

The priory was completed in time for the Dominican chapter meeting in 1588.

The church seems to have been roofed by
1570 when the main altarpiece was being assembled and installed. The main doorway is outlined by a diamond-panelled arch with fleurs-de-lis and an ornate keystone carved with a book symbolizing the Gospel. Dominican dogs on the pedestals of the flanKing Tuscan columns. St Francis and St Catherine of Siena occupy the side niches. Above the Virgin of Mercy, with the Christ Child, sheltering a Dominican friar and a nun – probably St Dominic and St Catherine. The bell tower is an 18th century addition.

In the church the famous altarpiece with paintings by Andrés de la Concha, a celebrated Sevillan painter, who travelled in Mexico in 1568 under commission of Gonzalo de Las Casas.

Source: Perry, Richard, D.:  Mexico’s Fortress Monasteries. Espadaña Press, Santa Barbara, California 1992. ISBN 0-9620811-1-6, p.183-186.  

also boasts a handsome 18th century pipe organ, which rests above the choir loft. This was also restored, by a French company, Atelier Pascal Quoirin in 1998.




In the province of Oaxaca the church of the Dominican Priory
in Yanhuitlán.


Mexico 1980, Mi 1699, Sc C631.







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