The Templo's Exterior
Carmelite Order originated in the early 13th Century among hermits living a life of poverty and contemplation on the slopes of Mt. Carmel in the Holy Land. Their name comes from their adoption of the Virgen del Carmen (Virgin of Mt. Carmel) as their patron. As a result of Christian military reverses during the Crusades, the Carmelitas were forced to leave for Europe. There, they traded their hermetic life for that of friars and nuns. However, faced with the Hundred Years War, the Black Plague, and the Renaissance, the Order became worldly and somewhat demoralized. In 1562, an extraordinary woman named Santa Teresa attempted to revive the Mt. Carmel tradition of isolation, contemplation, and prayer. She founded the Convento de San José for nuns in Ávila, Spain. Since poverty was a key element of the tradition, the nuns were called Carmelitas Descalzos (Barefoot Carmelites). Santa Teresa worked closely with a man called San Juan de la Cruz (St. John of the Cross), who founded a convent for friars with a similar orientation. In 1580, Pope Gregory XIII recognized the Carmelitas Descalzos as an independent unit of the overall Carmelite Order.
pilaster is a kind of false column. It functions as an architectural decoration and doesn't support any weight. Between the pilasters are Santa Magdelena de Pazzi on the left and San Angelo on the right. The construction of the Templo and its convent were greatly assisted by funds from the estate of Nicolas I. Fernando Torres, a Spaniard from Seville who married a rich woman named Dona Gertrudis Maldonado Zapata. Using her fortune as a base, he became even wealthier and eventually acquired the Haciendas del Pozo and Peotillos. The marriage produced no heirs and, upon his death in 1752, Fernando Torres left a will dedicating his fortune to the Carmelita Convent and Templo, and also to found Colegio de San Nicolas, a school for girls.
The blessing of the church that year was a huge event in San Luis Potosi. Attendees included all the other religious Orders, the civil officials, and the people of the city. In particular, the neighborhood of San Sebastian was invited, because the masons who did the extraordinary stonework lived there. Chief among them was an illiterate--but very skilled--indigenous artisan named José Lorenzo. Today, when viewing a masterful work like the Templo del Carmen, it is all too easy to forget that humble people like José Lorenzo were its actual creators.
recovered by the Church in 1886. It was finally returned to the Carmelitas Descalzos in 1923, and they have administered up to the present day.
The Main Nave
Francisco Eduardo Tresguerras was the architect responsible for those changes. Several years before he worked on this Templo, he rebuilt the Carmelite church in Celaya. All over Mexico, examples of his work can be found. In addition to being an architect, Tresguerras was also an accomplished painter and sculptor. He was also a political activist and was jailed briefly by the Spanish during the War of Independence.
Catholic churches are often laid out in a cruciform (cross-like) design. The long rectangular room where the congregation sits is called the nave because it resembles Noah's Ark and the Barque of St. Peter. The nave typically has an altar at one end and a raised choir loft at the other. The transept is a shorter rectangle which crosses the nave just in front of the altar area. The arms of the transept are often used as side-chapels devoted to the Virgen de Guadalupe or other saints. The main dome is situated directly above the point at which the two rectangles cross. The base of a dome is often octagonal, and framed by four triangular spaces decorated with portraits or scuptures of the four most important Doctors of the Church. The windows around the base of the dome help illuminate the area in front of the altar. In addition, they throw light upward onto the elaborately decorated interior of the dome itself. As you can see, the effect can be mesmerizingly beautiful.
Camarín del Virgen del Carmen
origin of the symbol relates to the transport of the body of Santiago to Spain after his martyrdom. According to legend, as the ship approached shore a great storm washed the body overboard. However, it later washed ashore intact, covered with scallop shells. The lines in the shell, meeting at a central point, also denote the many routes that pilgrims take on their way to visit the tomb of Santiago in Compostela, Spain.
This completes Part 8 of my San Luis Potosí series. I hope you enjoyed it and, if so, you take the time to leave a comment either in the Comments section below or directly by email. If you leave a question in the Comments section, PLEASE leave your email address so I can respond.
Hasta luego, Jim