|St. Nicolas de Tolentino, Actopan, MX|
Seen below is San Bernardino de Siena, in Coyoacan near Mexico City, one of my favorite conventos which has an elegant and beautifully restored interior.
|San Bernardino de Siena, Xochimilco, MX|
|San Miguel Arcangel, Mani Yucatan|
at first for the indigenous, newly acquainted with the church, and not yet used to worshipping in an indoor space.
The question remains why these buildings resembled huge fortresses. It was not for protection of the friars who lived and worked there; this was not an area with any ongoing physical threat. By the time that they were constructed, at least in Central Mexico, the conquest had been finalized. True, some of their mammoth scale was functional- there were large numbers of indigenous to be evangelized and space was needed. But there was an even more important reason. These new buildings, symbolic of the new religion, had to compete with the structures of the old religion. They had to be every bit as impressive and monumental as the temples and pyramids, the Templo Mayors, the Chichenitzas that spoke religious power to the indigenous. These were people from complex and ancient religious traditions. If the Christian god, the god who had defeated the old gods was indeed the most powerful, he needed an impressive house. The architectural marvels that the Spanish built, as we shall see with much indigenous assistance, were exactly this.