Eight years after the conquest of Mexico, Hernán Cortés donated land to the Franciscan friars to build their temples; this was the case of the San Juan Bautista Church and Convent. The design is attributed to Fray Juan de la Cruz. In that period the monastery, temple and the garden of San Juan Bautista were built. Note that the garden was what is now known as the Parque de Coyoacán. The arches that provided the entrance to the courtyard of the convent remain standing. With a beautiful delicately painted interior and serene cloister, it is a must see site in the center of Coyoacán.
The construction work of this place, covering 20 thousand square meters, was carried out between 1522 and 1552. The building was modified in 1804, 1926 and 1947. The land was fragmented and only part became the property of the Delegation of Coyoacán. In 1925, a year before the outbreak of the Cristero War, the José Rosas school where Catholic education was provided was closed.
Just eight years after the conquest was completed, Hernán Cortés generously decided to grant a fairly large area to a group of Franciscan friars. This property, according to the chronicler Salvador Novo , was made up of a cement floor, a red quarry facade, carved volcanic stone walls and even a shrine decorated with gold plate.
Precisely on this shrine, the monks built in 30 years (1522-1552) the Convent, the temple and the orchard of San Juan Bautista, covering an area of almost 20,000 m 2 of what is currently the park of Coyoacán .
Over more than four centuries, the church was rebuilt in 1804 and remodeled from 1926 to 1947. However, its exterior and interior beauty has not lost one iota, and has even been adorned with valuable paintings.
The original church consisted of three naves; the largest and tallest was located in the center and was covered with cedar beams supported by simply carved footings. The choir and presbytery were separated from the main nave, since the arrangement of these was exactly in the manner of a Roman Basilica . There was a Plateresque style on the doors , while the baptismal fonts had pre-Cortesian characters.
According to another description, the facade was of sober Plateresque architecture; the tower is adorned by pilasters in Tuscan order ; it was supported by Ionic columns and two of Solomonic origin; a half orange dome; the entrance door is of carved wood; the central altar ends in a Churrigueresque tone all of cedar wood with granite steps. In addition there are two baroque altarpieces on the walls. The differences in architectural and decorative styles arose from the various changes made through the ages.
The history of this property is long and therefore, full of anecdotes and events, some curious, others sad and unusual. In 1906, based on a “value judged by intelligent people”, the 19 thousand 441 square meters had a cost of 120 pesos. Two years later, the municipality of Coyoacán determined to establish iron bars around the Church, in order to avoid “offenses that conflict with morals.” Meanwhile, the pantheon that was built after the original construction had been closed, while the orchard had been assigned to individuals.
Already in 1918, the space that occupied a large part of the atrium must have been expanded, for the passage of the electric tram and cars and in this way, draw a short route to the town of San Ángel , which gave way to a beautiful mall, which is the current Plaza Hidalgo, thereby reducing the front of the atrium to 46 square meters. At that time, the Federal Government purchased from the Coyoacan municipality all this land of 6,228 square meters in 32,000 pesos, payable in five years. Debt that after more than 10 years was canceled.
Cloister of the Ex-Convent
Due to the poor condition of the wooden beam covers, Father Miguel Soria proposed to the then General Directorate of Artistic Monuments, to replace them with masonry. Due to the unfortunate times, the authorities tried to close the temple, however, they were not successful and only witnessed a long remodeling that lasted more than 20 years.
The one that did close was the “José Rosas” school that was attached to the church, for providing Catholic education. They wanted to locate another educational institution although of a civil nature and the poor conditions of the property prevented it. The above happened in 1925.
Later, in 1933, the residents asked the National Assets for the installation of a sports center in which part occupied the immense atrium. Of course the request was denied. Already in 1934 it was declared a Historical Monument by the Government of the Republic.
At the end of the remodeling work, 24 banks were handed over; a sculpture of the Virgin of Dolores; a relic consisting of the hand of San Pedro Alcántara kept in a silver reliquary; a bell with a weight of one thousand 991 kilos, same that was made with the casting of the old bell as well as six altars all of marble.
In 1948, an appraisal of this property yielded 1,320,000 pesos.
The truth is that the beauty of this temple has withstood the reconstructions, remodeling, opening of new streets to the detriment of the convent, cemetery and orchard; in short, in its fifth century of existence it continues to be a church of singular beauty that attracts thousands of visitors annually.
Inside the temple, there is access to a chapel, located on the left side, called “Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament”, where the Custody with the consecrated host is exposed daily .
Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament
Along with that chapel, there is the “Chapel of the Virgins” where every holy week they pray the rosary before the holy burial, its name comes from the fact that in this chapel, all the statues of the advocations of the Virgin that the Parish has are reserved.
Chapel of the Holy Cross
On the right side of the presbytery, there is a chapel called “Chapel of the Holy Cross” that already belongs to the convent, which is also accessible through the temple, next to the aforementioned chapel.
Simple, decorated with viceregal paintings, and white walls, 2 vaults with lantern, decorated with gold plate, as well as furniture with Franciscan details, 3 credencies and a table with Acetres .
Death of María de la Luz Cirenia Camacho González
Remains of María de la Luz Cirenia Camacho González
In 1934, on the façade of the current church, an anti-Catholic mutiny gathered, of the Red Shirts having as their leader the politician Tomás Garrido Canabal , they began to shoot at the facade and the faithful present, including María de la Luz Cirenia Camacho González . She was wounded in the chest, Fray Alejandro Torres, pastor, had time to anoint her with the holy oils . Her remains are still preserved in this parish, the martyr is in the process of Beatification.
Alleged Apparition of the Virgin
At the end of the 20th century, around the 80s, a black stain in the shape of the Virgin of Guadalupe dawned on a fence facing the Hidalgo Garden . The media, such as the faithful and priests, attended the place, with curiosity and faith, to venerate the virgin. Over time, the image has been disappearing, people ignore it.
Supposed Apparition of the Virgin.
In October 2008, a concert was held in the church, presenting Mozart’s requiem , with the Coyoacán Symphony Orchestra Conductor: Maestro Daniel Hazan. Alpha Nova Choir of the National Polytechnic Institute , Soloists: Armando Gama, Verónica Alexanderson, Leonardo Villeda. A large crowd of stakeholders attended the event.
Legends and myths of this place.
The Parish of San Juan Bautista was one of the first in New Spain. After almost five centuries of existence, many of the legends that emerged within its walls are still being told. One of the oldest, relates that Brother Lego – from the Dominican order – could not read or write, so he had memorized his prayers. Every morning and night he prayed 150 Ave Maria and daily he was the first to wake up and go to the chapel. When the other monks came to celebrate their morning prayers, the place was full of roses that seemed freshly cut. On one occasion, Brother Superior asked who was in charge of decorating the altar of the Virgin, but no one answered and the rose bushes in the garden did not seem to lose flowers. One day Brother Lego became seriously ill and was unable to go to the chapel.The monks noted that the altar did not have the usual roses and deduced that he was the one who carried them daily. The next morning, Brother Lego – still ill – was not in his bed, when it was time to meet in the chapel they saw him kneeling before the image of the Virgin reciting his Hail Mary. At that moment everyone witnessed the miracle: for each prayer, a rose appeared in the vases. At the end of his 150 prayers, Brother Lego died at the feet of the Virgin.a rose appeared in the vases.
The temple is a parish of Villa Coyoacán, it manages the churches of Santa Catarina , La Inmaculada Concepción “La Conchita” , The Chapel of San Antonio Panzacola, and the Chapel of the Holy Child Jesus. It is administered by the Franciscan Order in Mexico, its parish priest is Br. Roberto Rosas OFM
During the earthquake of September 19, 2017 . the atrial cross of its main tower and several cracks inside it were demolished. (which to date remains unrestored).
Phone: +52 (55) 5554 0560
Jardín del Centenario #8, Col. Villa Coyoacán.