Friday, August 21, 2009

A Trip to Atotonilco

This week I visited the pueblo of Atotonilco, the site of El Santuario de Atotonilco, an 18th century Jesuit church listed in July, 2008 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Atotonilco means "Place of the Hot Waters". The area has many thermal hot springs, which were thought to have healing powers.

Construction of el santuario began in 1740 under the direction of Father Luis Felipe Neri de Alfaro and took more than 35 years to complete. The walls and ceilings are covered with exquisite frescoes painted by Miguel Antonio Martinez de Pocasangre in what is known as the "folk baroque" style.

El Santuario de Atotonilco is a pilgrimage church. People from all over Mexico make the pilgrimage here to pray, meditate and/or duplicate the suffering of Christ. Thousands come here to do penitence by walking on their knees, tying crowns of spiny nopal cactus thorns around their heads, wearing hair shirts, or flagellating themselves with whips.

The sanctuary continues to undergo extensive historic restoration. No flash cameras are permitted inside, therefore my photos do not really convey the magnificence of the church's chapels, altars, sculptural figures and paintings.

Click on the following slide show to enlarge it and join me for a tour of El Santuario de Atotonilco.

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