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Set beside the San Juan river in the Los Altos region of northeastern Jalisco, the provincial town of Lagos de Moreno is home to one of the most spectacular late baroque churches in Mexico.

In colonial times the town prospered as a way station on the rich silver route to Zacatecas, and was known as the "Athens of the Bajio" for its fine mansions and cultural pretensions.

The grand church of The Assumption, known to residents simply as the "Cathedral," was built in the late 1700s to house the shrine of San Hermion (Hermes?), an obscure early Christian martyr whose purported relics were brought here from Rome.

Set on a rise, the site of an earlier mission and possibly a pre-hispanic temple, the Cathedral dominates the main plaza, its soaring twin towers visible for miles from the surrounding plain.

Its flamboyant "Churrigueresque" facade is richly carved with ornate architectural sculpture, replete with statuary, decorative niches and rococo flourishes - all fashioned from pink marble! Each tower rises like a wedding cake, its diminishing tiers encrusted with massed columns and projecting cornices.

The side doorways are similarly elaborate and feature busts of popular saints like St. Barbara and John the Baptist.

For some, the church at Lagos de Moreno may present the very picture of baroque excess, but to the open-minded viewer, it has great charm and undeniable presence - an outstanding Spanish colonial monument of its time.

text & illustration © 1997 &2000 by Richard D. Perry

For more on the colonial buildings of Jalisco and the Bajio, consult Blue Lakes & Silver Cities, our guide to West Mexico