Constructed by Father Felipe Neri Alfaro, the Sanctuary of Jesus Nazareno of Atotonilco is famous for its murals that reflect a syncretism of Catholic religious iconography mixed with native religious beliefs. The church has served as a spiritual center for over 200 years and is still the destination of religious pilgrimages. It also served as the terminus of the famous Mexican Independence Route. The sanctuary comprises the church, with the Room of the Apostles located behind its apse, and six lateral chapels. Cupolas and towers decorate the otherwise unpretentious facade. The sanctuary's famous pictorial murals by Miguel Martínez de Pocasangre and the numerous artworks of the chapels represent an iconographical program inspired by the life of San Ignacio de Loyola. The nave of the sanctuary is surrounded by several side chapels arranged in a particular order for a preplanned program of worship.
1996 World Monuments Watch
Atotonilco was placed on the inaugural World Monuments Watch in 1996 and since then WMF has collaborated with Adopte una Obra de Arte, Guanajuato, on several conservation projects at the site. These include the restoration of the underchoir, the Rosary Chapel and its anteroom, the anteroom of the Apostles, the Chapel of the Saint Sepulcher, the polychrome wood chancel, the candle holders of the chapels of Calvary and Saint Sepulcher, the Chapel of Belen, and the Chapel of the Calvary. WMF is currently restoring the façade and three stone altars located in the main nave. The next steps will include conservation work at the choir, the Chapel of Gloria Escondida, the Chapel and Anteroom of the Virgin of Loreto, the Chapel of the Virgin de la Soledad, frames of the Chapel of El Calvario, and the easel paintings of the Chapel of Belen.
The Sanctuary of Jesús Nazareno de Atotonilco represents an important example of the cultural exchange between European and Latin American cultures and is a masterpiece of Mexican Baroque. Although several chapels and decorative paintings have been restored in recent years, this important baroque monument remains in need of conservation measures to assure its continuous use by a large number of pilgrims.