Exploring Colonial Mexico©
"Portals of Paradise." Mexico's colonial doorways.
This gem of a monastery, still in use by the Franciscan Order after 450 years, overlooks scenic Lake Patzcuaro in the central highlands of Michoacán.
From the village plaza, a pathway lined by tall cedars leads us to the church. Carved from smooth white limestone that stands out dramatically against the rough reddish-black volcanic blocks of the facade, the commanding west doorway, with its broad archway and magnificent shell reliefs, is among the finest examples of 16th century "Pidgin Plateresque" architecture, a style unique to highland Michoacán.
Behind the arcaded monastery front, notable for its carved "ramshead" capitals, we can still see the 16th century open chapel, used by the friars to preach to the assembled Tarascan Indians in the years following the Spanish conquest.
On a recent visit, the monastery was crowded with young seminarians who enthusiastically showed us around and pointed out, from the mirador at its rear, a sweeping panorama across the monastery gardens to the islands and shimmering waters of Lake Patzcuaro beyond.
text and illustration ©1997 by Richard D. Perry
For more details on Erongarícuaro and the other colonial villages of the region see our guidebook Blue Lakes & Silver Cities
See our other pages on Michoacán:
Lake Patzcuaro; Pomacuarán.