BUILDINGS THAT SHOULD BE VISITED IN PÁTZCUARO
Before continuing, is should be noted that the order in which these places are described is not in an historical order, but rather according to their location. This will make it easier to find and visit each location. However, in the description of each edifice or historic monument is mentioned at least the approximate year of construction.
This is the most important church in Pátzcuaro, because it is the cathedral that Vasco de Quiroga founded and began to construct in 1540, and which was a truly grandiose project. The church may be observed in the coat of arms of the city. It is composed of five equal-sized vaults that meet in the center, where the high altar is placed. This design represented for Don Vasco a solution to the problem of the multitudes of faithful, who could not be contained in a single temple and who the friars had resorted to serving in open chapels, which we will describe later.
Tata Vasco proposed building a composite temple of five churches, capable of holding all the faithful at once. However, that project was never completed because the experts in construction at the time considered the size dangerous due to the earthquakes that constantly rocked the region. Another version of the story says that the construction was not carried out because the Vatican considered it an act of arrogance and a potential competitor in size and importance with the Basílica of Saint Peter in Rome. However, the only vault constructed served as cathedral from the arrival of the Jesuits in 1573 until the episcopal see was transferred to Valladolid -today Morelia- in 1580. The other four vaults were never constructed.
The main altar of the basílica has served since 1908 as home to an image of the venerated Virgin of Health, constructed of cane dough and orchid honey, a concoction often used in prehispanic times by the natives, and later used in the sixteenth century to make religious figures.
OLD COLLEGE OF SAN NICOLAS
(MUSEUM OF CRAFTS AND FOLK ARTS)
This building is located at the corner of Árciga and Alcantarilla streets, one block south of the Basílica. It was founded in 1540 by don Vasco de Quiroga, who named it Saint Nicholas in honor of the patron saint of his native town, Madrigal de las Altas Torres. Don Vascos purpose in establishing this school was to create an educational center for Spanish priests, something lacking not only in his bishopric, but in all of New Spain.
It is said that its curriculum was so good, that when years later the Council of Trent ordered the construction of new seminaries to prepare priests, the organization of those study centers was a near-copy of what don Vasco had taught in his own school. It is said that this school is the oldest college in the Americas -although it operates currently with different goals and in a new location. When the episcopal see was transferred to Valladolid, the college transferred also, uniting its faculty and holdings with the college of San Miguel. Becoming one, both colleges continued operations until the institution was finally moved to the current University of San Nicolás de Hidalgo. Thus, the original name given by its creator has been restored and joined by that of the father of Mexican independence Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, who, as is well known, was both student and professor in the college.
The original building in Pátzcuaro has been transformed into the Museo de Artes Populares (folk art museum) and offers in its layout a good understanding of much of the architecture of Pátzcuaro. Its arrangement not only meets the needs of such a museum but is very instructive to the visitor, in a most agreeable way.
This museum holds one of the largest and best collections of lacquerware from Uruapan, Quiroga and Pátzcuaro in which you can observe the richness and exquisite taste with which they are crafted. It is also possible to view a great variety of ceramics, burnished and glazed china, and many different handicrafts made from wood, textiles, wheat, tule (a local reed), quarried stone, cane dough, wax, silver, copper, tin and iron.
All these demonstrate the richness of the crafts found in the state of Michoacán. At the same time, one can admire the famous floor made of cow bones, which in the eighteenth century was used at the entrance of the kitchen as a typical building technique years ago. And there are a few prehispanic archaeological ruins discovered in the back court of the building, and an authentic troje, a typical building style used in the mountains of Michoacán. Dont miss visiting this museum!
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