Santuario de Atotonilco – Atotonilco, Mexico - Atlas Obscura
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Santuario de Atotonilco

Atotonilco, Mexico

The walls and ceilings of the "Mexican Sistine Chapel" are almost completely covered with mural, sculpture, inscriptions and oil paintings. 

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The Santuario de Jesús Nazareno de Atotonilco (Sanctuary of Jesus of Nazareth in Atotonilco) is a baroque temple of the 18th century located just outside San Miguel Allende in the Mexican state of Guanajuato. Its construction was led by Father Luis Felipe Neri de Alfaro, who was inspired by the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

This sanctuary is dedicated to Jesús Nazareno and was built according to principles laid out by Ignatius of Loyola. The Sanctuary of Atotonilco is known worldwide for being a participant in the history of Mexican Independence, when priest Miguel Hidalgo took a banner with the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe as the flag of the insurgent army.

The surprise starts from the moment you arrive in Atotonilco. The exterior of the church is made up of great walls that give the church a fortress-like appearance. The relatively plain walls stand 10 meters high, topped with huge domes that make it reach 20 meters. Additionally, it has a clock tower that measures 20 meters tall.

Inside, the walls and ceilings are almost completely covered with mural work, sculpture, inscriptions, and oil paintings in a style called Mexican popular baroque, although Mesoamerican influence can be seen. The only exception to this is the Neoclassical altars, which were installed at a later date.

Most of the mural work was done over a period of about 30 years by Antonio Martínez de Pocasangre with some made by José María Barajas. There is almost no free space between the numerous images.

The style of the painting imitates the Flemish painting that was known through the Belgian prints that Spanish colonizers brought from Europe. This impressive and intricate mural work has led many to compare it to the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

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