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Baroque Architecture in New Spain

Baroque Architecture in New Spain

Author: Ian McConnell
Description:

This lesson will discuss a few examples of Baroque architecture in Mexico.

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Tutorial

An overview of Baroque architecture in New Spain.

Video Transcription

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello. I'd like to welcome you to this episode of Exploring Art History with Ian. My name is Ian McConnell. And today's lesson is about Baroque architecture in New Spain or the Americas. As you're watching the video, feel free to pause, move forward, or rewind as often as you feel is necessary. And as soon as you're ready, we can begin.

Today's objectives or the things you're going to learn today are listed below. By the end the lesson today, you'll be able to identify and define today's key terms, briefly explain the Spanish conquest and colonization of the New World, explain how Catholic churches became important symbols of both Spanish and Catholic authority, and identify examples of Spanish Baroque architecture in New Spain by stylistic characteristics.

Key terms, as always, are listed in yellow throughout the lesson. First key term is churrigeresque. It refers to an elaborate sculptural stucco detailing, decoration, and ornamentation seen on Spanish Baroque architecture. Ultrabaroque, an architectural ornamentation in southern Spain characterized by dense, elaborate decoration.

Retablo, in Latin America, a devotional painting that uses religious iconography from the Catholic church. Conquest, the subjugation of the New World by Spain. Indigenous, people who are native to a certain place. And cathedral, the main church that contains the bishop's throne. The big idea for today, Catholic churches were important symbols of Spanish and Catholic authority in New Spain.

Now the architecture that we're looking at today dates from 1562 to 1625. And all the churches we're learning about today with the exception of two unrequired examples from Spain are found within modern-day Mexico. Our first example is located in Mexico City.

Colonization sounds like such a friendly word at first. But in this case, it involves the displacement and enforcing one civilization's will on that of another. There's a reason it's called the Spanish Conquest.

Now although this period of time is looked at as the golden era of Spain-- and this is showing the extent of Spain's colonization at its peak-- it marks a very dark time for the native cultures, such as the Aztec, Inca, and the Maya that were conquered in the Americas by the Spanish in the name of her king and in the name of the Catholic church. Now the influence reverberates today. From Mexico through Argentina and South America, this area is the largest region of Spanish speakers on the planet. And it also marks the largest, and arguably, most devout, Catholic region and population in the world.

Now the cultural and linguistic influences and blendings are very apparent in the people of Latin America today. And like any civilization that expands into other areas, the influence of Spanish art and architecture is apparent as well. Construction of churches was extremely important. Spain was one of the most devoutly Catholic countries of this time. And by Vatican decree, which is from the pope himself, Spain's expansion was to coincide with the spread of Catholicism as the conversion of conquered civilizations to Catholicism.

Now this is why the Spanish conquests and spread of Catholicism go hand in hand. Churches were a physical representation and reminder of the church's and Spain's authority over the New World. The architectural influences on the churches we'll study today can be traced back to the Spanish churches in Europe. Just as the culture that developed out of this time became a mixture of native Spanish cultures, the churches that were built here can find influences from continental Europe, as well as from the local people.

Now, at the time of its initial construction in Spain, Valladolid Cathedral was located in one of Spain's most important cities, Valladolid, home to Philip II and his court. Now it's an example of Spanish Renaissance design, just as in Jaen Cathedral to the south, which we'll look at in just a moment.

Now remember, periods like the Renaissance and the Baroque occur at different times depending on the region and depending upon the rate of penetration. And we can see the more simplified exterior of Valladolid contrast to the noticeably more decorative facade of Jaen Cathedral, which you can see here. Now both of these would serve as important influences on the design of churches in the New World.

Now construction began on the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico shortly after the conquer of the Aztecs by the Spanish with the intention of consolidating their power and influence by building a monument of Spanish and Catholic authority on the former Aztec capital. It's a mixture of styles, most notably Baroque and Renaissance. It's essentially a classical layout with Baroque decoration and ornamentation seen throughout the exterior and interior of the church.

Now one of the best examples of ultrabaroque-- here's a few views of the outside. One of the best examples of ultrabaroque can be seen in the elaborate ornamentation of the facade of the Tabernacle, which is adjacent to the main cathedral structure. Now the dense ornamentation characteristic of ultrabaroque tends to work best when it's affixed to a classical layout like this. The juxtaposition of which is intended to create a trance-like effect, an impression of the glory of heaven.

The churches of New Spain incorporated elements of Spanish architecture, but possessed a much more varied mixture of styles in comparison to their European counterparts. For example, the Cathedral of San Ildefonso is largely Renaissance in its execution, particularly with its restrained and logical facade, dominated by the use of the rounded arch and overall simplicity in its design. Now interior elements are, again, simple in their overall concept, but there are Baroque elements, particularly in the altars, which are not pictured, unfortunately, as well as examples of Gothic tracery on the sides of the nave. The church itself is constructed from repurposed stones from a former Mayan temple and most likely built with Mayan slave labor, a very physical representation of the authority of Spain and the church and subjugation of the native population to the will of the Spanish.

Now the churrigeresque, which is the English pronunciation of that, were ultrabaroque style was the result of the incorporation of the work of local sculptors and artisans, as well as the unique inclusion of devotional and instructional devices called retablos. Now the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption in Zacatecas is a wonderful example of this fusion of the European and native styles.

Now the austere-looking native brickwork serves as the perfect surface for the elaborate ornamentation of the facade and bell towers of this church. And one can make the argument that the contrast of these two styles creates a greater impression with the ornamentation as if the entrance to the church truly marked a transitional point between the earthly and heavenly realms. Now it's a style that, interestingly enough, corresponded to the rococo in the rest of Europe, a style, which was itself known for its similar level of ornamentation and detail.

So that brings us to the end of this lesson. Let's take a look at our objectives again to see how we did. Now that you've seen the lesson, are able to identify and define today's key terms? Can you briefly explain the Spanish Conquest and colonization of the New World?

Can you explain how Catholic churches became important symbols of both Spanish and Catholic authority? And can you identify examples of Spanish Baroque architecture in New Spain by stylistic characteristics? And once again, the big idea for today is that Catholic churches were important symbols of Spanish and Catholic authority in New Spain.

And that's it. Thank you very much for joining me today. I'll see you next time.

Notes on "Baroque Architecture in New Spain"

Key Terms

Churrigeresque

Refers to an elaborate sculptural stucco detailing, decoration and ornamentation seen on Spanish Baroque architecture.

Ultrabaroque

An architectural ornamentation in southern Spain characterized by dense, elaborate decoration.

Retablo

In Latin America, a devotional painting that uses religious iconography from the Catholic Church.

Conquest

The subjugation of the New World by Spain.

Indigenous

People who are native to a certain place.

Cathedral

The main church that contains the bishop's throne.


Citations

Image of Mexico City Map Public Domain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Distrito_Federal_en_M%C3%A9xico.svg; Image of Jaguar Warrior PD-1923 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Jaguar_warrior.jpg; Image of Palenque Relief PD-old-auto-1923 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:PalenqueAc.jpg; Image of Inca god PD-1923 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Viracocha.jpgImage of Cathedral of Valladolid, Creative Commons, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Valladolid_-_Catedral.jpg; Image of Jaén Cathedral, Creative Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ja%C3%A9n-Catedral_de_la_Asunci%C3%B3n_VPSM-20110919.jpg; Image of Metropolitan Cathedral Creative Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Catedral_de_M%C3%A9xico.jpg; Image of Tabernacle ; Image of Met Cathedral Interior Copyright James G. Howes http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mexico_DF_Cathedral.jpg; Image of Met Cathedral Facade Public Domain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:MainPortalCathedralDF.JPG; Image of Met Cathedral Tower Public Domain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mexico_City_Cathedral_bell_tower.jpg; Image of Our Lady Zacatecas Creative Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:2008_08_16_Zacatecas_(3).JPG; Image of Our Lady Zacatecas Facade Creative Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Catedral_zacatecas.jpgImage of Cathedral of San Ildefonso, Mérida, Yucatán, Creative Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Catedral_de_Merida_2.jpg; Image of Interior of Cathedral of San Ildefonso, Mérida, Yucatán, Creative Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Merida_-_Cathedral_de_San_Ildefonso_-_Christo_de_Unidad.jpg

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Churrigeresque

    Refers to an elaborate sculptural stucco detailing, decoration and ornamentation seen on Spanish Baroque architecture.

  • Ultrabaroque

    An architectural ornamentation in southern Spain characterized by dense, elaborate decoration.

  • Retablo

    In Latin America, a devotional painting that uses religious iconography from the Catholic Church.

  • Conquest

    The subjugation of the New World by Spain.

  • Indigenous

    People who are native to a certain place.

  • Cathedral

    The main church that contains the bishop's throne.