Located just a few kilometers from the ancient walled city of Mayapan, the gigantic fortress church of Tecoh is set atop a vast Maya pyramid, approached via a broad stone stairway that once led to the Mayan temple.
Starting with the tiny Franciscan chapel established here in the mid-1550s, whose open chapel with its misshapen dome was converted into the present sanctuary, the mission grew rapidly, terminating with the construction of the grand church in the 17th century.
The austere facade is capped
by multi-tiered twin towers in the mold of Mérida Cathedral.
In addition to the high parapets
surmounting the nave, the massive walls enclose narrow passageways,
or caminos de rondo, with slit-like openings on both sides
that overlook the nave interior and the surrounding churchyard
The main treasure of the church is its magnificent late baroque main retablo, that fills the east end.
This tall, richly ornamented masterpiece in faded red and gold is currently undergoing thorough and much needed renovation.
Four tiers of elaborately layered cornices and gilded estípite pilasters frame a series of four colonial paintings depicting St. John the Baptist and several Archangels. While being restored, these paintings were discovered to be the signed works of Miguel Cabrera, Mexico's best known baroque painter, dating from the late 1700s.
When reassembled, this fine altarpiece will take its place as the jewel in the crown of Tecoh, and one of finest surviving retablos in Yucatan.
Text and illustrations ©1998 & 2001 by Richard D. Perry
For more on the churches of Yucatán and their colonial treasures, consult our guidebook, Maya Missions