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A Franciscan monastery and two churches in Tlaxcala

The Tlaxcalan village of Tepeyanco de Las Flores, located in a valley some 10kms south of the state capital of Tlaxcala, is the proud possessor of two colonial churches: a 16th century church (left above), part of the Franciscan monastery, and the adjacent 17th century parish church (right). Both buildings were damaged during the 1999 earthquakes in the Puebla region and both have undergone extensive repair and restoration, during which examples of early colonial mural art came to light.

The Monastery and its church

A huge sunken atrium faces the Franciscan monastery, which is dominated by its imposing church - a classic fortress church, whose soaring rectangular facade features a broad arched doorway and is anchored by massive, flared and stepped buttresses.

Several gilded colonial altarpieces line the interior, as well as some decorative painted wooden confessionals and balconies. Traces of 17th century murals have recently been found beneath the choir including the figure of St. Christopher - often found in Franciscan churches.

The grand open chapel (left) stretches out from the north side of the church. Behind its elegant colonnade - originally a double arcade of which only the inner one now stands - fragments of an outstanding 16th century polychrome fresco of the martyr San Sebastian (right) adorn the chapel wall.

The ruined convento stands on the south side of the church, its cloister arcades still awaiting restoration. During recent work here, bands of geometric decoration in burgundy and ocher were found along the church and convento fronts, as well as traces of polychrome frescoes in the baptistry.

The Church of San Francisco

The front of the adjoining parish church consists of an attractive retablo-facade in the classic Pueblan baroque style of tile and stucco ornament. Note the mudejar-style brick tower.

Inside, at the far end, rests the magnificent gilded and painted main altarpiece. Designed in provincial late baroque style, the 18th century retablo is dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe, and contains several large, brightly painted panels showing her Apparitions. In the center of the retablo is a large sculpture of the Trinity, shown as three young men, probably dating from the mid-1700s.

In front of the church stands a scalloped stone baptismal font. Carved with supporting angels, it now serves as the basin for a patio fountain.

Text and illustrations©2001 Richard D. Perry

For more on the monasteries of Puebla/Tlaxcala see our Puebla pages and our guidebook Mexico's Fortress Monasteries