Santa Prisca Church was built following the discovery of a silver mine on the property of José de la Borda. He was so thankful for the discovery on his land that he commissioned the construction of the church, which lasted from 1751 to 1758. Santa Prisca’s façade is a superb example of the highly ornate Mexican baroque architecture. The glorification of martyrdom was adopted as the central subject for its altarpieces and paintings. Several well-known Mexican artists contributed to the church’s interior decoration, including Cayetan de Siguenza, Isidoro Vincente de Balbas, Joseph de Alba, and the prolific Miguel Cabrera.Today, Taxco de Alarcon remains a lively mining city, with the silver mine beneath the 250-year-old church still operational. Vibrations from the blasts, earthquakes, and automobile traffic have caused cracks in Santa Prisca’s vaults. In 1997, Amigos de Santa Prisca mobilized a local campaign to address these structural problems and preserve the church.
2000 World Monuments Watch
Amigos de Santa Prisca succeeded in persuading local officials to divert a portion of the heavy traffic and reduce the use of explosives nearby. Mexico’s former ambassador to Ireland, the Honorable Daniel Dultzin, encouraged the organization Amigos de Santa Prisca to nominate the church to the Watch, and it appeared on the list in 2000. Watch listing supported the strong local initiative already in place and aided in gaining the attention of the regional government in Guerrero. For over a decade since inclusion on the Watch, WMF has assisted in a number of conservation works at Santa Prisca with funding from American Express, the Robert W. Wilson Challenge to Conserve Our Heritage, and Fomento Cultural Banamex, AC. Work has included structural stabilization and conservation of walls, vaults, towers, roofs, and the sacristy of the church. The restoration of the decorative woodwork, paintings, and sculptures continues today. The most recent phase of work began in 2013, and focuses on the completion of the restoration of the interior woodwork, and partial restoration of the rectory, roofs, the enclosing wall, and atrium. A publication highlighting the research and preservation work carried out since 2001 will be published in late 2014.
Santa Prisca, with its two stone towers, wide dome, and intricate finishes, is one of Mexico’s grandest and most beautiful churches. It is an exquisite example of the baroque style and the most prominent monument in Taxco de Alarcon, much loved by its congregants and the larger community. The dedication of the local population to the church and the gratitude they felt towards the groups that assisted them in saving it was expressed when American Express presented its grant to the church on October 5, 2000. The Taxco authorities declared the day a holiday and the sounds of church bells and fireworks filled the air for hours. In 2001, Santa Prisca was included on Mexico’s tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage inscription.