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San Antonio Hopelchén

Travelers in western Yucatan often head south from Uxmal and the Puuc region along Highway 261 to visit the famous caves of Bolonchen and Xtacumbilxunan, the "Chenés-style" Maya sites of Campeche, such as Hochob, Dzibitún and Edzná, as well as the fortified colonial town of Campeche itself.

The main town along this route is Hopelchén, in Maya: "Where there are Five Wells."

Hopelchén's principal feature is its beautifully maintained colonial mission of San Antonio. Founded on a former Maya platform beside the village plaza, this late 17th century church is distinguished by its austere, geometric stone facade topped by sinuous baroque belfries.

The Retablo Mayor

The main attraction lies within the church: its collection of colonial altarpieces, of which the most impressive is the retablo mayor, which rests in the apse. This is the oldest part of the church, probably dating from the late 1500s.

Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the main altarpiece is framed by spiral "solomonic" columns, is richly gilded and painted with green and burgundy accents. As with most other Yucatecan 18th century retablos, sculpted wooden reliefs take precedence over paintings. These illustrate familiar scenes from the life of the Virgin, and are carved in a rustic, sentimental manner.

For other color pictures of colonial Yucatan, check out Philip Baird's site below:

text © 2002 by Richard D. Perry. image © Philip Baird www.anthroarcheart.org

for more on colonial Campeche, consult our updated guidebook, Maya Missions

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