The Watch

Inmaculada Concepción Chapel

Nurio, Mexico

2002 World Monuments Watch

Located deep in the Pureepera sierra, Inmaculada Concepcion Chapel was constructed as part of a hospital complex, one of several built by Vasco de  Qiroga, the Spanish Renaissance humanist and bishop of Michoacán, whose ideas on regional evangelization and settlement were inspired by Thomas More’s Utopia. The single-nave chapel, built on a rectangular plan, has a stone portal and an elaborately decorated, coffered wooden ceiling. Its interior decoration, which includes renderings of saints surrounding the Virgin Mary, is considered among the best surviving examples of the so-called Mexican Popular Baroque style. The balcony- choir is unique in Mexico. Although the carving is Mexican, it is Mudejar in style, exhibiting a combination of Moorish, Romanesque, and Gothic elements seen in Spanish architecture following the expulsion of the Moslems in the late fifteenth century.

Inmaculada Concepcion Chapel is located in a poor, indigenous community, its main road paved only three years ago. Its interior elements, primarily of wood, have suffered from exposure. The structure has been attacked by fungus and portions of its coffered ceiling have fallen. Adopte una Obra de Arte, a nonprofit foundation, recently took an interest in the chapel, spearheading a restoration with the aid of Mexico’s Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes and private sponsors. The community has been instrumental in the restoration, providing manpower and food to conservators, but more funding is needed to complete the work.

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