How did the Atotonilco Sanctuary influence the History of Mexico?

San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato.- The Atotonilco sanctuary keeps a story that should be relevant for all Mexicans: it was where Hidalgo took the banner of the Virgin of Guadalupe after taking up arms in 1810. But it is also a part of the naming which San Miguel de Allende has as a Cultural Heritage of Humanity, due to the beauty of its frescoes, which consider the place as the Sistine Chapel of America.

The name of this town means “place of hot water” since very close to the Sanctuary (1 kilometer), there were a large number of thermal water springs, whose healing properties were estimated since pre-Hispanic times, but they were also a good pretext for sexual promiscuity, in addition to being a favorable place for assaults; These reasons contributed to the construction of the temple and the exercise house.

 The construction dates back to the 17th century by Father Luis Felipe Neri de Alfaro, who was inspired for its construction by the Holy Sepulcher and located in Jerusalem. This sanctuary dedicated to Jesus the Nazarene, served as a house of spiritual exercises for San Ignacio de Loyola; today they are still valid

In fact, four or five times a year, the Atotonilco cloister is used for retreats or spiritual exercises, in addition to visits by the faithful on different pilgrimages. Every year, about sixty thousand people, men and women, from all corners of Mexico, even beyond the borders, come to lock themselves up in batches at the Holy House of the Exercises of Atotonilco. For eight days – from Sunday to Sunday – they will be in charge of “the salvation of his soul.” Between spiritual talks and penances, the retreatants will seek to emerge renewed from this unique experience of faith.

Currently there are 32 rounds of exercises a year; Each session has an average attendance of 1,700 to 2,000 participants. The Easter batch stands out, with more than 3,000 participants, as well as those during the months of July and August. More than 50 thousand penitents participate in the retreats annually, of which 60% are women.

The importance of the Sanctuary was expressed on July 8, 2008 when UNESCO included the Sanctuary on the list of World Heritage Sites. According to UNESCO:

“Its architecture and decoration testify to the influence of the doctrine of Saint Ignatius of Loyola.”

The sanctuary of Jesús Nazareno de Atotonilco is a baroque temple from the 18th century located 14 kilometers from San Miguel de Allende. To get there you need to take the road to Dolores Hidalgo. The church is made up of a main nave, seven annex chapels, a sacristy and six dressing rooms. The chapels are decorated with paintings by Juan Rodríguez Juárez.

Inside the sanctuary and its chapels there is a profusion of mainly mural painting that decorates everything, covering the vaults, domes, lanterns and walls almost to the ground, in such a way that it is barely possible to find an undecorated surface.

  The murals that decorate the entire church are a masterpiece of artistic exchange between Europe and America. Painted by the local artist (possibly mulatto) Miguel Antonio Martínez de Pocasangre for thirty years, the murals are arranged in no order, one followed by another, occupying the entire church.

The murals were made in tempera, although there are also parts altered with oil paint touches. The compositions are an example of how New Spain painters interpreted the European engravings that arrived in America, adapting them to the local reality. The images that served as inspiration for Martínez de Pocasangre in the Passion Cycle are the engravings by the Wierix brothers that illustrate Jerónimo de Narval’s work, Evangelicae Historiae Imagines. This shows that the murals had a didactic-religious purpose, not only by displaying them on a large scale but also by filling them with color.

The sanctuary of Atotonilco is known for having participated in the history of the Independence of Mexico, when Priest Miguel Hidalgo took from this place a banner with the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe as the flag of the insurgent army. It is currently believed that said banner was made of wood.

The construction receives more than 5 thousand visitors from different parts of the world every week; The sanctuary is open to the public every day from 10:00 in the morning to 5:00 in the afternoon.

Source: Periodico Correo