The former Convent of San Miguel Arcangel in Mani was constructed between 1548 and 1557. It originally consisted of a two-level cloister, living quarters for the monks, a church, a portico with four chapel-shrines, an open-air chapel, a hospital, and the first school for Yucatán natives. The surviving features of the convent are the cloister, the church, the sanctuary of the open-air chapel, and one of the four chapel-shrines. The church contains one of the best collections of locally made altarpieces, sculptures, and mural paintings dating from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. By the early twenty-first century, the general wear and tear of the building over centuries of use and exposure had begun to take their toll: the roof suffered damage, the semicircular vaults of the church interior had cracked, water infiltration caused the progressive deterioration of the sandstone masonry and renderings of lime and sand, and the continual presence of moisture has damaged the historic wall paintings and the sculpted architectural elements.
How We Helped
In collaboration with Fomento Cultural Banamex and through the Robert W. Wilson Challenge to Conserve Our Heritage, WMF assisted in the comprehensive restoration of the church’s exterior and interior. This initial phase of work completed in 2009, included cleaning of the exterior walls and roofs and eliminating the destructive biological growth, reinstating the traditional, naturally weather-tight roofing system, protecting the exposed walls with a lime-based rendering, applying a protective coat of lime wash, restoring all wooden doors and gates, and replacing the interior flooring with stone pavement. In order to promote the rehabilitation of the San Miguel convent as part of an integral tourism development plan for the historic town of Mani (Yucatan), WMF is collaborating with Fomento Cultural Banamex, on the partial restoration of the convent to house the Museum of Yucatec Embroidery. The museum will display a collection of pieces that represent the different techniques employed by the embroidery crafts tradition, the most important cultural expression of Mani. The project will be complete in 2015.
Why It Matters
The surviving early Franciscan convent complexes are an important part of Mexico’s patrimony, as many still serve as parish churches and social service centers for their communities. However, many are overlooked, as the Maya temples and civic complexes in the Yucatán receive greater attention. San Miguel Arcangel was one of the three most important centers of Franciscan activity in the sixteenth century in the region that is still standing. The complex is a valuable testament of Franciscan artistic, architectural, and social intervention in the Yucatán over the span of three centuries.