There’s no doubt that the Church of Santa Maria Tonantzintla in San Andres Cholula, Mexico, is beautiful from the outside. From its patterned, red facade and the pretty blue detailing on its bells to the tree-lined entrance, it’s a charming sight to behold.
The church dates back about 500 years, when the construction started. For a variety of reasons, though, it wasn’t completed until the early 20th century.
Still, it retains a traditional Mexican, or New Spanish, baroque style. This style is similar to the ornate European style, which featured a lot of flourishes, intricate details, and colors, but in the Mexican style, it also saw a lot of indigenous influence.
Take a moment to appreciate that detailing on the spire.
Inside, the walls and ceiling are a riot of figures and details, full of color and life.
There are hundreds and hundreds of human figures, reflecting figures from both the Catholic faith and the indigenous religions, making the church a unique blend of the cultures.
Even its name is reflective of the blending of these cultures. “Santa Maria” refers to the Virgin Mary of Catholic tradition, while “Tonantzintla” means “the place of our mother” in the native language, after the Aztec goddess Tonantzin. Both names reflect the worship and honor of a female figure, and bring the two religions, which might seem very different, to a common ground.
Each figure has been carefully painted.
They also represent both the native and white populations, based on their coloring, hairstyles, and facial features.
In addition to human figures, the plaster decorations also include flowers, fruit, birds, masks, and abstract imagery.
The outside of the church, with its gates decorated.
(via Atlas Obscura, Virtual Tourist)
If you’re ever in Mexico and want to get a real feel for the history and culture of the region, Santa Maria Tonantzintla should definitely be on your itinerary. Its blending of diverse cultures and beautiful styles is guaranteed to be a sight worth seeing.