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Franciscan Missions in the Sierra Gorda of Querétaro

Franciscan Missions in the Sierra Gorda of Querétaro

The five Franciscan missions of Sierra Gorda were built during the last phase of the conversion to Christianity of the interior of Mexico in the mid-18th century and became an important reference for the continuation of the evangelization of California, Arizona and Texas. The richly decorated church façades are of special interest as they represent an example of the joint creative efforts of the missionaries and the Indios. The rural settlements that grew around the missions have retained their vernacular character.

Missions franciscaines de la Sierra Gorda de Querétaro

Les cinq missions franciscaines de la Sierra Gorda ont été édifiées pendant la dernière phase d’évangélisation de l’intérieur des terres du Mexique (milieu du XVIIIe  siècle), et sont devenues une référence pour la poursuite de l’évangélisation de la Californie, de l’Arizona et du Texas. La façade richement ornée des églises est d’un intérêt tout particulier car elle représente un exemple des efforts créatifs conjoints des missionnaires et des Indios . Les peuplements ruraux qui se sont développés à proximité des missions ont conservé leur caractère vernaculaire.

البعثات الفرنسيسكانية في سييرا غوردا في كويريتارو

 تمّ انشاء البعثات الفرنسيسكانيّة الخمس في سييرا غوردا في المرحلة الاخيرة من التبشبر بالانجيل في داخل الأراضي المكسيكية (منتصف القرن الثامن عشر). وأصبحت هذه البعثات مرجعًا لمتابعة التبشير بالانجيل في كاليفورنيا وأريزونا وتكساس. وكان للواجهة المزخرفة جدًا في الكنائس أهميّة خاصة لأنها تشكل مثالاً على الجهود الابداعية المشتركة التي قام بها المُرسلون والهنود. كما حافظت المستوطنات الريفيّة التي تطورت على مقربة من البعثات، على طابعها المحلي.

source: UNESCO/ERI

克雷塔罗的谢拉戈达圣方济会修道院

谢拉戈达的5座圣方济会修道院建于公元18世纪中期,它是基督徒最后传入墨西哥中部地区时建立的,同时,它也是基督教在加利福尼亚州、亚利桑那州和田纳西州传播的重要证据。教堂装饰华丽的外观展示了传教士与当地人非凡的创造力,教堂周围的乡村聚居地则保留着它们本身的地方特色。

source: UNESCO/ERI

Францисканские миссии в Сьерра-Горде, штат Керетаро

Пять францисканских миссий в Сьерра-Горде были построены на последнем этапе обращения в христианство внутренних районов Мексики в середине XVIII в. Они стали важным отправным пунктом для продолжения этого процесса в Калифорнии, Аризоне и Техасе. Богато украшенные фасады церквей представляют особый интерес, являясь примером совместных созидательных усилий миссионеров и индейцев. Сельские поселения, выросшие вокруг миссий, сохранили свой традиционный народный характер.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Misiones franciscanas de la Sierra Gorda de Querétaro

Las iglesias franciscanas de este sitio fueron edificadas a mediados del siglo XVIII, durante la última fase de la evangelización del interior de México y se convirtieron en un elemento de referencia para la prosecución de la evangelización en California, Arizona y Tejas. Sus fachadas ricamente ornamentadas ofrecen un interés particular porque son un ejemplo de la labor creadora conjunta de los indios y los misioneros. Los poblados rurales creados en las cercanías de la misiones han conservado su carácter autóctono.

source: UNESCO/ERI

ケレタロのシエラ・ゴルダのフランシスコ修道会伝道施設群

source: NFUAJ

Franciscaanse missieposten in de Sierra Gorda van Querétaro

De vijf Franciscaanse missieposten van de Sierra Gorda werden gebouwd tijdens de laatste fase van de bekering tot het christendom van het binnenland van Mexico, halverwege de 18e eeuw. De missieposten zijn belangrijk geweest voor de voortzetting van de evangelisatie van Californië, Arizona en Texas. De rijk versierde kerkgevels van de missiegebouwen zijn interessant omdat ze de gezamenlijke creatieve inspanningen van de missionarissen en de inheemse bewoners weerspiegelen. De missieposten werden gebouwd tussen 1750 en 1760 en bevinden zich in de bergachtige regio van Sierra Gorda in centraal Mexico. De landelijke nederzettingen die rond de missies ontstonden hebben hun inheemse karakter behouden.

Source: unesco.nl

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Franciscan Missions in the Sierra Gorda of Querétaro © Temo Rivera
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief Synthesis

The Franciscan Missions in the Sierra Gorda of Queretaro comprises five missions which were built in the 18th century, during the last phase of the evangelisation of the interior of Mexico, located in the mountainous Sierra Gorda region in central Mexico. Of the five missions, Santiago de Jalpan (the earliest, built 1751-58) and Nuestra Señora de la Luz de Tancoyol are located in the municipality of Jalpan de Sierra, Santa Maria del Agua de Landa and San Francisco del Valle de Tilaco are in the municipality of Landa de Matamoros, and the mission of San Miguel Concá is in the municipality of Arroyo Seco.

They witness the cultural coexistence between different social groups and their environment and became an important reference for the continuation of the evangelisation and colonisation of California, Arizona and Texas. The missions, in particular the richly decorated façades of the churches, are a manifestation of the joint creative efforts of the missionaries and the existing indigenous groups, resulting after an exchange of values and influences. They are a testimony of the cultural coexistence between two societies and the natural environment. The rich iconographic elements express the creative work and a faithful reflection of the spirituality and vision of both cultures.

The missions represent both architectural and artistic manifestations that are the most relevant within the Franciscan evangelist route that led to the conquest and evangelization of the northern area of Mexico. They evidence the Franciscans’ perseverance and capacity to evangelize isolated ethnic groups who lived in inhospitable territories.

The emplacement as well as the formal characteristics and techniques used in the Franciscan Missions in the Sierra Gorda are determined by three significant and unifying elements, these are: the natural environment, the urban layout and the religious complex. Their position in the Sierra Gorda mountainous system generates a landscape interaction between the natural elements and the built ones. These conditions were used as guidelines for the basic layout of those towns. In addition, the missions were used as a way of organizing the local indigenous populations, setting up an example of shared participation in the creation of a new system of urban arrangement and a building process. The architecture of the missions is designed following a general pattern, although there are individual differences. Their features are reminiscent of 16th-century convents, and generally include an atrium, a sacramental doorway, an open chapel, processional chapels and a cloister. Some features are also taken from Mexican Baroque art of the 17th and 18th centuries, evidenced in the cross-shaped ground plan of the church, the carved and stuccoed facade, and the use of lime plaster in the interior. The buildings are made from local stone, and have colouring plaster rendering.

The Franciscan Missions in the Sierra Gorda are a living heritage that preserves its structure, its original use as religious centres of great importance in this area and are also cultural spaces that allow the reproduction and continuity of regional living traditions and shapes. The rural settlements that grew around the missions have retained their vernacular character.

Criterion (ii) The Sierra Gorda Missions exhibit an important interchange of values in the process of evangelization of central and northern Mexico, and the western United States.

Criterion (iii) The five Sierra Gorda Missions bear witness to the cultural encounter of the European missions with the nomadic populations of central Mexico, remaining a significant testimony to this second phase of evangelisation in North America.

Integrity

The built religious complexes of the Franciscan Missions in the Sierra Gorda of Queretaro preserve the composition of their original elements. The mixed architecture of these monuments is the result of a new and singular architectural identity typical of this region which has been integrated with the surrounding landscape. They were created as spaces for the religious cult and nowadays, they are also used as a centre for diverse activities related to the culture of its inhabitants. This heritage preserves its main use, and its original characteristics have not been modified. However, the protection of the setting is an important challenge to address in light of expansion of urban and rural sprawl.

Authenticity

The conditions of the authenticity of the Franciscan Missions in the Sierra Gorda of Queretaro are substantiated by the tight link between these buildings and the characteristics and attributes of the natural environment as well as the originality, diversity and opulence of the decorative language of the Mexican baroque as represented by the indigenous craftsmen in the facades. The basic design criteria of such missions were already established in the 16th and 17th centuries. While taking the main elements of the earlier schemes, the Missions give a new interpretation to them in the vernacular context. The aesthetic originality is in the external decoration of the churches, which has strong indigenous component in the selection of themes and execution. The buildings have faced a period of neglect, losing some of their features. Partly this was due to the renovation of the interiors in a sober neo-classical expression, common in the 19th century. The recent restoration of the five missions was based on a thorough research, and was carried out in an appropriate manner by qualified teams. The historic stratifications and changes were duly respected. It has also been possible to reveal and reintegrate the original polychrome colour schemes of the church façades.

In spite of this, the architectural planning as well as the layout, the facades’ iconographic composition and the original materials used in the mission complexes have values that still exist. The missions function goes beyond the idea of a space used merely for the representation of catholic ceremonies, as it was and still is considered a milestone, the centre of urban outlines and also the symbol of the community’s identity.

Protection and management requirements

The legal protection of the Franciscan Missions in the Sierra Gorda of Queretaro is granted through laws and existing legal standards at the federal, state and municipal levels. These include the Constitution of the United Mexican States, the General Law on Human Settlements, the General Law of Ecological Equilibrium and Environmental Protection, the 1972 Federal Law on Historic, Archaeological and Artistic Monuments and Zones and the Constitution of the Free and Sovereign State of Querétaro de Arteaga. The five towns and their Franciscan Missions in the Sierra Gorda are delimited by main conservation areas and buffer zones controlled by State and Municipal jurisdictions. There is a co-management scheme for the property that entails diverse authorities at the federal, state and local level as well as the social groups. The objective is to safeguard the monuments, the urban centres, and the natural areas where they are located. In addition, the surroundings of the human settlements and natural contexts regulated so that the integrity of the setting is maintained. The restoration works have been carried out continuously, as well as projects related to the improvement of the urban image of the localities. There is a management plan for the property, Plan for the Management and Conservation of the Franciscan Mission in the Sierra Gorda, which makes provisions that take into account the idea that the historical monuments are part of the daily lives of the population and the territory where they are located; and have tight bonds with the surrounding human settlements and natural environment. The intent is also to foster the operation of the cultural corridor; an instrument has been operating since 2005 and is implemented along with the Plan for the Management of the Natural Reserve of the Biosphere MAB Sierra Gorda.

In the long term, it is necessary to consolidate the Commission for the Implementation of the Plan for the Management and Conservation of the Franciscan Mission in the Sierra Gorda and its Consulting Board to further systematize management endeavours and improve the monitoring of the site 

Long Description

The five Sierra Gorda missions bear witness to the cultural encounter of the European missions with the nomadic populations of central Mexico, remaining a significant testimony to this second phase of evangelization in North America. The most thorough evangelizing work carried out by the Franciscan Order in America is reflected in the architectural and artistic achievement in these missions. They exhibit an important interchange of values in the process of evangelization of central and northern Mexico and the western United States, and demonstrate the cultural coexistence between two different groups with their environment.

The property consists of five Franciscan missions dating from the 1750s and 1760s. They are located in the mountainous Sierra Gorda region in central Mexico, where evangelization took place much later than elsewhere. Of the five missions, Santiago de Jalpan (the earliest, built 1751-58) and Nuestra Señora de la Luz de Tancoyol are located in the municipality of Jalpan de Sierra, Santa Maria del Agua de Landa and San Francisco del Valle de Tilaco are in the municipality of Landa de Matamoros, and the mission of San Miguel Concá is in the municipality of Arroyo Seco.

The Franciscan missions were complex organizational units run by friars aiming at evangelizing, congregating and teaching indigenous people. Each mission had to erect the church, find the natives, subdue them, and then group them in huts around the church. The missionaries had to learn the native language, supply the population with food, teach them how to behave, and only then evangelize them.

All five missions share similar elements in relation to their environment, the town and the religious buildings. The environment offers splendid mountain views; the strategic locations of the missions determined the layout and development of the native settlement around. Today, these are traditional rural settlements. The architecture of the missions is designed following a general pattern, although there are individual differences. Their features are reminiscent of 16th-century convents, and generally include an atrium, a sacramental doorway, an open chapel, processional chapels and a cloister. Some features are also taken from Mexican Baroque art of the 17th and 18th centuries, evidenced in the cross-shaped ground plan of the church, the carved and stuccoed facade, and the use of lime plaster in the interior.

These features are most characteristic of Jalpan, Landa and Tancoyol, while Tilaco and Concá have more individual designs - for example there are no chapels. The buildings are made from local stone, and have plaster rendering. The orientation of the complex differs in each case; the main facade is oriented to the west only in Tilaco, while Jalpan faces east, Tancoyol south, and Concá and Landa south-east. Considering that the congregation generally gathered outside, the main elevation of the church is opulently decorated with winding plants and flowers, fantastic architectural elements, angels, figures of Virg\in and saints, including St Francis. While the general layout of the complex reflects the Franciscan model, the spirit and forms of decoration refer to local traditions and local products as gifts to God. Artistically the whole has a particular air of innocence and naivety.

Strategically, the images were 'ideographic', enforcing the didactic scope of the mission. The facade has usually three horizontal and three vertical sections, forming framed fields; in Tancoyol, there are five horizontal sections. The dominating colour is ochre. In contrast, the interior is now much less pretentious; it has simple plaster rendering, and the altarpiece has straightforward architectural forms. A cupola crowns the transept crossing. Seen from the front, a tall bell tower is attached on the left side of the church. The lower part of the tower is plain on a square plan; the upper part is richly ornate with architectural elements. The residential part, on the right side of the church, has an arched entrance and in some cases there is a cloister passage around the court. Otherwise it is relatively simple without decoration.

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Historical Description

The northern region of Sierra Gorda, where the missions are placed, is part of the mountainous central Mexico. In ancient times, the native inhabitants used to be involved in mining and trade, living in small settlements scattered over the lower parts of the mountains. Sierra Gorda was a natural barrier between the agricultural, sedentary people and the nomadic, hunter-gatherer tribes of the north. At the time of the arrival of the Spaniards, the people were mainly living on agriculture. The Huastec lived in large feudal estates and were skilled in cotton spinning. The Jonace lived in caves and attacked estates. The Pame was a large group who grew corn and lived in grass or palm-leaf houses; they were docile and collaborative with the friars.

In the 17th century, due to political interests and silver mining, armed conflicts were often provoked, involving the Spaniards and groups of native people. This resulted in the destruction of many of the early missions. In the 17th century, the Franciscans made attempts to penetrate further into the country, but were not able to establish permanent presence. In the 18th century, they obtained a new authorisation, resulting in the decision, in 1744, to establish five missions (Jalpan, Concá, Tancoyol, Landa and Tilaco). Due to continuing conflicts in the region, the first years were difficult, delaying the construction of the actual mission complexes until 1750-51, under the leadership of Friar Junípero Sierra.

The construction phase took some two decades combined with the active evangelisation work by the Franciscan friars. By the end of the period, in 1770, the mission was accomplished. The political situation had changed, and the missions were secularised. Due to rebellions and armed conflicts in the 19th century, the missions suffered and eg the gilded altarpieces were destroyed. Towards the end of the century, the churches faced further problems and some images that were replaced, eg in the central part of the front of Jalpan. In the 20th century, the population decreased, and some missions were abandoned at times; others had alterations, such as the atriums of Landa (1966) and Jalpan (1964). Nevertheless, they have continued as religious entities, dominating the settlements which grew around them as well as being a reference for the region. From the publication on the Baroque in the Sierra Gorda region, by Monique Gustin in 1969, a new interest was revived to safeguard these baroque masterpieces, leading to restoration during the 1990s.

The driving force in this phase of evangelisation was Junípero Serra (1713-1784), a Spanish Franciscan priest whose missionary work in North America earned him the title of Apostle of California (he was beatified by the Pope in 1988). He was instrumental in the establishment of the Sierra Gorda missions, where he served from 1750 to 1758, moving then to south-central Mexico (1758-1767). When Spain began its occupation of Alta California (present-day California), Serra joined the expedition, and in 1769 he founded Mission San Diego, the first in California. Altogether 21 missions were founded by him and his successors in California, where they became the strongest factors in the development of the region.

Source: Advisory Body Evaluation