The Discreet Beauty of Tezontle
The Church of San Bernardo at the corner of 20 de Noviembre and Venustiano Carranza streets is among the most overlooked of Centro Histórico churches and temples. But then, it also tends to stand out in its own paradoxically Baroque sense of modesty. This is sometimes referred to as a “discreet” expression of Baroque in that every possible surface is not adorned.
The church was part of a convent that had been founded in 1636. The church itself was begun in 1685 and finished just two years later in 1687. Today the church is the only part remaining of the larger complex.
The façade and cladding of the church were completed in the 18th century, when the Count of San Mateo de Valparaíso took responsibility for the repair work and used the geometrically cut tezontle stone. The church was rededicated in 1777.
The niches on the façade are the chief places where the Baroque adornment stands out. One bears a statue of Bernard of Clairvaux who died in 1153. He was a French abbot credited with revitalizing Benedictine monasticism through his work with the Cistercian order. The other niche contains a statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
The façade facing 20 de noviembre, with these niches was in fact moved from the other side of the church in the 1860s. During the Reformation under Benito Juárez, all monasteries and convents were closed and this one was demolished leaving only the church. The demolition allowed for the opening of what was to become calle 20 de Noviembre.
A bronze plaque reads:
The Religious Conceptionists of the Convent of the Sweet Name of Mary of the Glorious Saint Bernard. Founded on March 30, 1636 at this place. We celebrate 350 Years since its foundation, 1986.”