Earliest 16th-Century Monasteries on the Slopes of Popocatepetl

Earliest 16th-Century Monasteries on the Slopes of Popocatepetl

These 14 monasteries stand on the slopes of Popocatepetl, to the south-east of Mexico City. They are in an excellent state of conservation and are good examples of the architectural style adopted by the first missionaries – Franciscans, Dominicans and Augustinians – who converted the indigenous populations to Christianity in the early 16th century. They also represent an example of a new architectural concept in which open spaces are of renewed importance. The influence of this style is felt throughout the Mexican territory and even beyond its borders.

Premiers monastères du XVIe siècle sur les versants du Popocatepetl

Il s’agit d’un groupe de quatorze monastères répartis sur les versants du Popocatepetl, au sud-est de Mexico. Parfaitement conservés, ils sont très représentatifs du modèle architectural suivi par les premiers missionnaires – franciscains, dominicains et augustins – qui évangélisèrent les populations indigènes au début du XVIe siècle. Ils sont aussi un exemple d’un nouveau concept architectonique dans lequel les espaces ouverts acquièrent une nouvelle importance. Ce modèle exerça son influence dans tout le territoire mexicain, et parfois même au-delà de ses frontières.

الأديرة الأولى في القرن السادس عشر على منحدرات بوبوكاتيبيتل

إنها عبارة عن مجموعة 14 ديرًا موزَّعة على منحدرات البوبوكاتيبيتل في جنوب شرق المكسيك. وهي الأكثر دلالةً على نموذج الهندسة المعماريّة الذي اتّبعه المرسلون الأوائل – الفرنسيسكانيون والدومينيكيون والاغسطينيون – الذين بشّروا شعوب المنطقة في بداية القرن السادس عشر. وهي تشكّل أيضًا المثال على المبدأ الجديد للهندسة المعمارية حيث أُعطيت المساحات المفتوحة أهميّةً جديدةً. وكان لهذا الشكل تأثيرٌ كبيرٌ على الأراضي المكسيكيّة كافةً وفي بعض الأحيان خارج حدود هذا البلد.

source: UNESCO/ERI



source: UNESCO/ERI

Монастыри начала XVI века на склонах вулкана Попокатепетль

Эти 14 монастырей располагаются на склонах вулкана Попокатепетль к юго-востоку от Мехико. Они прекрасно сохранились и являются отличными примерами архитектурного стиля, привнесенного сюда первыми миссионерами – францисканцами, доминиканцами и августинцами, которые обращали аборигенное население в христианство в начале XVI в.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Primeros monasterios del siglo XVI en las laderas del Popocatepetl

Situado al sudeste de la ciudad de México, en las laderas del Popocatepetl, este sitio comprende catorce monasterios en perfecto estado de conservación. Estos edificios son representativos del modelo arquitectónico adoptado por los primeros misioneros –franciscanos, dominicos y agustinos– que evangelizaron a las poblaciones indígenas en el siglo XVI. Son también un ejemplo de una nueva visión de la arquitectura, en la que los espacios abiertos cobran una nueva importancia. Ese modelo ejerció una gran influencia en todo el territorio de México y más allá de sus fronteras.

source: UNESCO/ERI


source: NFUAJ

Vroegste 16e-eeuwse kloosters op de Popocatepetl vulkaanhellingen

Deze 14 kloosters staan op de hellingen van de vulkaan Popocatepetl, ten zuidoosten van Mexico Stad. Ze zijn in uitstekende staat en vormen goede voorbeelden van de architectonische stijl aangenomen door de eerste zendelingen – Franciscanen, Dominicanen en Augustijnen – die de inheemse bevolking tot het christendom bekeerden in de vroege 16e eeuw. Het onderscheidende kenmerk van deze Nieuw Spaanse kloosters is een architectonisch concept waarin open ruimten van hernieuwd belang waren. Deze nieuwe stijl kreeg navolging in heel Mexico en is zelfs buiten haar grenzen terug te vinden.

Source: unesco.nl

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Earliest 16th-Century Monasteries on the Slopes of Popocatepetl © Vincent Ko Hon Chiu
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief Synthesis

The earliest 16th- Century Monasteries on the Slopes of Popocatepetl is a serial property with 14 component parts located in the states of Morelos and Puebla in Mexico, built as part of the evangelization and colonization of the northern territories of Mexico. The monasteries are Atlatlahucan, Cuernavaca, Tetela del Volcan, Yautepec, Ocuituco, Tepoztlan, Tlayacapan, Totolapan, Yecapixtla, Hueyapan and Zacualpan de Amilpas in Morelos and Calpan, Huetotzingo and Tochimilco in Puebla.These monasteries are considered to represent good examples of the architectural style adopted by the first missionaries – Franciscans, Dominicans and Augustinians –, with spatial solutions and the architectural expressions that materialized the fusion and synthesis of heterogeneous elements. A considerable number of these buildings have an explicit military aspect, and compositional elements with definite Mudejar and Renaissance origin. The expression of the native culture is also present, from the open spaces used for worship to the work expressed on the decorations and the wall paintings.

The monasteries also represent an example of a new architectural concepts in which open spaces are of renewed importance. The influence of this style is felt throughout the Mexican territory and even beyond its borders. The distinctive characteristic of these monasteries reside in the relationship between built and open spaces and, above all, in the emphasis placed on the wide forecourt or atrium with its individual posas and open chapels that offered a variety of solutions. The monasteries were founded in areas of dense indigenous settlement, with the object of providing focal points for urban settlements, a role which has survived to the present day.

The 14 monasteries all conform with an architectural model which spread rapidly over the region and contains certain basic elements common to this new type of monastic house: atrium (usually rectangular), church (usually simple in plan but of imposing size, with a single nave), and monastic buildings, usually located to the south of the church and disposed around a small courtyard or patio, designated as the cloister.

The great Atriums, which are open spaces, surround the entire perimeter of the Temple (in some cases most of it).  They are delimited by Resting Chapels (Capillas Posas) in the atrium’s internal perimeter, called the processional path, and the walls, have small niches for the Viacrucis. Another important element is the Open chapel. The hydraulic structures also are elements of the exterior composition that conducted water from the upper part of the mountain for community use.

Criterion (ii):  The considerable influence exercised by the architectural model of the monasteries, which spread over a very wide area, is incontestable, because it operated not only  in the second half of the 16th century in the centre and south-east of Mexico, but continued with the expansion of colonization and evangelization of the lands to the north in the 18th century, reaching the present-day USA from the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts, in the form of a large number of smaller establishments known as “missions” rather than” monasteries.

Criterion (iv): The group of monasteries selected as being representative of the large total, considered both as a family and as an individual buildings bears characteristic witness to a certain type of the structure, architectural as well as urban, which served as the centre of new human establishments for the reorganization of an enormous territory and for the introduction of new social and cultural elements.


Since the monasteries preserve all of the original elements of its architectural complex, they are a complete representation of an actual 16th century Monastery. In general, there is a good state of conservation and physical integrity has been maintained. Decay processes have been controlled by the yearly implementation of conservation projects. There are important challenges to address regarding the physical setting of these monasteries, particularly in terms of controlling urban sprawl at the diverse locations.


The level of authenticity in design and materials at the monasteries is high. After the Council of Trent many of the monastic buildings were converted to other uses and in the course of the 19th century new public buildings, such as schools and clinics, were built in the monastery precincts. However, the churches have all retained their original function and as a result have preserved the greater part of their original form and furnishings. The conditions of authenticity might be threatened by unpredictable natural phenomena, such as earthquakes and/or eruption of the Popocatepetl volcano, because of the proximity to the volcano. In case of the later, there could be total or partial losses of the monasteries.

Protection and management requirements

The legal protection of the earliest 16th- Century Monasteries on the Slopes of Popocatepetl involves the three different levels of the government: federal, state and local. The legal instruments that ensure the protection of the property include the Political Constitution of the United Mexican States; the General Law of Human Settlements and the 1972 Federal Law on Historic, Archaeological and Artistic Monuments and Zones.

The management of the property is the co-responsibility of heritage authorities at the federal and state level and associated representatives from civil groups. Management and conservation centres aim at ensuring the stability of the monasteries and their elements through the implementation of conservation, maintenance and awareness raising activities.