OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE CHURCH, Puebla, Puebla
The church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Puebla, a city about 60 miles (100 km.) southeast of Mexico City, is considered one of the most beautiful churches in the country; some say it is the second most beautiful, after San Francisco Atepec in nearby Cholula. This, of course, is not THE basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The original one is in Mexico City. There are many churches dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe throughout the country.
Puebla is one of the oldest colonial cities in the American continent; it was founded in 1531. One of its founders was a Franciscan friar, Fray Toribio de Benavente. He was one of the original “Twelve Apostles” (known by this name to signify their apostolic mission) to arrive in Mexico in 1524 to evangelize the newly conquered peoples after the Spanish conquest in 1521. The Franciscans were the first to arrive, later to be followed by the Dominicans and the Augustinians. In their wake, missions and churches sprang up everywhere. Construction on this church began in 1694.
Puebla is known world-wide for its signature “Talavera-tiled” architecture, a style which typifies many of the buildings in the historical centre of the city. The church of Our Lady of Guadalupe is an example of this: Talavera tiles decorate the façade of the church depicting the events in the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico city to Juan Diego in 1531. Between 1550 and 1570 potters came from Talavera de la Reina in Spain to teach the indigenous craftsmen of Mexico their techniques. These Mexican potters were already experts in the art, greatly aided by the rich volcanic clay surrounding the area. Puebla is a city surrounded by three volcanoes! A photograph of one of these active volcanoes is shown at the bottom of this webpage.
They adapted the Talavera techniques to produce their own unique and striking form of ceramics known as Poblano Talavera. It is these artistic masterpieces which adorn not only the church of Our Lady of Guadalupe but many churches and buildings in the historic centre of Puebla, making the city home to some of the most stunning churches on the continent.
It is no wonder that Puebla was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987.