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Templo y Convento de Nuestra Señora de la Merced — Oaxaca City, Oaxaca

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Colonial Church     (A)

Templo y Convento de Nuestra Señora de la Merced — Oaxaca City, Oaxaca

Mercedarian monks traveling between México City and their missions in Guatemala established a way station here in 1598. It took over a hundred years, but in the early 17 century, the order finally built their first church on this site. Soon after it was completed, though, earthquakes destroyed it. Then, after several more decades of work, the present church was finally completed in 1690.

Facing west, the church overlooks a large, shady plaza, bordered on the north by busy Independencia Avenue. Mostly shrouded in trees, its retablo façade is elegant, though simple of design, lacking the excessive ornamentation of many of the Dominican facades. As with all retablo façades, it is laid out in tiers, in this case four, stacked one on top of the other, each tier a single section, an arched portal on the first tier, a single statue set in a shell niche on the second tier, an oval choir window on the third tier, and another single statue lodged in a shell niche on the fourth tier.

Beyond the simple exterior lies an unexpectedly bright and ornate interior, recently painted. The nave is covered by a series of high domes and lined with lateral arches, buried deep within the aches neoclassical altarpieces filled with colonial paintings and statues, the whole interior aglow with natural light from windows high in the nave and crossing.

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