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La Compañía: restored west tower 2003

PUEBLA: La Compañía redux:

(Av. Maximino Avila Camacho y 4 Sur)


In 1999 two severe earthquakes caused widespread damage to colonial buildings in the City of Puebla and its surrounding area. Among the worst hit in the city was the magnificent church of Espirito Santo, commonly known as La Compañía. Since then, this 18th century Jesuit church, an outstanding example of the urban barroco poblano style, has been restored inside and out (see before and after pictures below).

The Jesuits arrived in Puebla in 1578 and promptly set about founding several colleges there. The first Jesuit church on the site, dating from the 1580s, was demolished in the early 1700s and work began on a grand new basilican church under the direction of the master architect José Miguel de Santa Maria. Ironically, it was not until 1767, the year of the expulsion of the Jesuit Order from Mexico, that La Compañía was finally dedicated.

Although considered the grandest 18th century monument in the city, and an exemplar of the Churrigueresque style, because of its prolonged construction time the building reflects many architectural influences both regional and national. The stone and stucco church front was heavily influenced by Puebla cathedral, just a few blocks away. In spite of the use of layered estípite pilasters and dense passages of decorative stuccowork, the facade retains a classical sobriety that distinguishes it from other, more exuberant folk baroque churches of the region.

The lacy ornamental panels are clearly demarcated and generally confined to the facade supports and around the openings, and draw on earlier decorative poblano traditions of intricate scrolls, strapwork and geometric motifs. Note the contrasting vine and laurel branches that wreath the Jesuit monogram above the choir window.

Overall, the horizontality of the broad basilical front, emphasized by the use of multilayered cornices, provides a satisfying contrast with the soaring verticality of the towers.

 

East tower (1999)

 

Center facade (1999)  

 

East tower 2003

 

Center facade 2003

Después de los terremotos de 1999 en Puebla, muchos de los edificios, tanto en la ciudad como en la región, sufrieron graves daños. En la cuidad de Puebla el edificio más golpeado fué la iglesia barroca de La Compañía. Tres años más tarde, el edificio resulta bastante restaurado, con la fachada y las torres blancas resplandecientes de nuevo en el luz mesetana.


La iglesia cuenta con tres puertas que constituyen el gran pórtico, con bellas rejas de hierro forjado y cinco arcos. El arco central toma la forma de trébol, con prolongaciones en los puntos donde se remata. En el centro de la fachada luce el escudo de la Compañía de Jesús: una corona de ramas de vid y de laurel. En la corona se encuentran las iniciales de Jesús, y bajo éstas, los tres clavos de la Pasión.


  • text and pictures ©1999 & 2004 by Richard D. Perry
  • for more information on the colonial monuments of Puebla and central Mexico, consult our guidebook Mexico's Fortress Monasteries
  • See our other Puebla pages: on Atlixco and Quecholac.
  • Look for future pages on the folk baroque churches of Puebla.
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