These 14 monasteries stand on the slopes of Popocatépetl to the southeast of Mexico City. They are in an excellent state of conservation and are good examples of the architectural style adopted by the first missionaries who converted the indigenous populations to Christianity in the early 16th century.
Earliest 16th-Century Monasteries on the Slopes of Popocatepetl
The Earliest 16th-Century Monasteries on the Slopes of Popocatepetl is a serial World Heritage property with 14 component parts located in the states of Morelos and Puebla in Mexico, built as part of the evangelization and colonization of the northern territories of Mexico.
These monasteries were built by the Augustinians, the Franciscans and the Dominicans in order to evangelize the areas south and east of the Popocatépetl volcano in central Mexico.
These monasteries almost uniformly feature a very large atrium in front of a single nave church with a capilla abierta or open chapel. The atrium functioned as the meeting point between the indigenous peoples and the missionary friars, with mass for the newly converted held outdoors instead of within the church. This arrangement can be found repeated in other areas of Mexico as these friars continued to branch out over New Spain.
The 14 monasteries are as follows.
In the State of Morelas:
- Tetela del Volcan
- Zacualpan de Amilpas
In the State of Puebla:
The monasteries also represent an example of new architectural concepts in which open spaces are of renewed importance. The influence of this style is felt throughout the Mexican territory and even beyond its borders.
The distinctive characteristic of these monasteries resides in the relationship between built and open spaces and, above all, in the emphasis placed on the wide forecourt or atrium with its individual posas and open chapels that offered a variety of solutions.
The monasteries were founded in areas of dense indigenous settlement, with the object of providing focal points for urban settlements, a role which has survived to the present day.
The 14 monasteries of Popocatepetl all conform with an architectural model which spread rapidly over the region and contains certain basic elements common to this new type of monastic house:
- atrium (usually rectangular)
- church (usually simple in the plan but of imposing size, with a single nave)
- monastic buildings, usually located to the south of the church and disposed around a small courtyard or patio, designated as the cloister
The great Atriums, which are open spaces, surround the entire perimeter of the Temple (in some cases most of it). They are delimited by Resting Chapels (Capillas Posas) in the atrium’s internal perimeter, called the processional path, and the walls, have small niches for the Viacrucis.
Another important element is the Open chapel. The hydraulic structures also are elements of the exterior components that conducted water from the upper part of the mountain for community use.