The Parish Church of the Immaculate Conception

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THE PARISH CHURCH OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION

By: Valerio Monti

When the city's plan was sketched in 1780, a site was considered for the construction of a large church. At first, a chapel was built, located at the current vestry. The first stone of the Parish was laid on February 14, 1793. In the first five years, construction proceeded rapidly, due to the riches of the mines and the generous contributions from parishioners. In August 1797, the temple was already in use and mass could be celebrated. By 1798 the boom had declined and the work slowly went on. On September 7, 1800, when the first two tranches of the sanctuary were already completed, the dome caved in, and a woman was buried in the rubble. In 1807 the French architect John Crouset, which built the cathedral in Monterrey, took over the work. He abandoned it in 1814 when the church was nearing completion, with only a few details to be finished. The dedication ceremony took place on December 7, 1817, but the large amount of ornaments and wax caused a fire that damaged the building and some altars so the use of the temple became effective until 1820 or 1821. During the 1910 Revolution, worship at the church was suspended and the church was confiscated. In 1939, Father Albino Enriquez, after long and difficult efforts, managed to rescue the church. He restored and redecorated the Parish thanks to contributions made by pilgrims and he built the tower where they placed the clock that Porfirio Díaz donated as a gift to the mine of Santa Ana in his visit in 1895. The blessing of the improvements took place on July 12, of 1942. The first image venerated in the chapel was an 1.10 wide and 1.70 meters high oil painting of the Limpia Concepcion, portrayed as the original from Real de Sierra de Pinos. The dedication ceremony took place in 1781 and the godparents were the founder of Real de Catorce, Silvestre Lopez Portillo and the first diocesan priest, bachellor Don Ignacio Aguilar. By 1795, this first image had already been replaced with one 1.60 meters tall, donated by Don Francisco de Aguirre and Miguel dedicated to the Purisima Concepcion, which was placed on the High Altar in a wooden gilded niche with glass. The facade of the parish is of neoclassical style with Doric elements. The inside measurements of the church are: 53 meters long, 13 meters wide, the vaults height is 17 meters and the dome is 32 meters high. The floor is made of large pine boards that thanks to the climate are in good condition. The large 1,200 flutes tubular organ, built in 1834 by Jose Tomas Tello de Orozco was ineptly mutilated. Among the Parish altars, San Jose stands out, it is neoclassical style, with its original stucco, a high-quality marble imitation, excellent design and proportions. The High Altar is also of neoclassical style and was repainted white. At the center is a stand with the Purisima Concepcion in its glass. In the left transept you can appreciate an oil painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe made by Jose de Alcíbar in 1784. The canvas, 1 meter wide and 1.80 high, is in a beautiful frame that is made of ten white and gold silver leafs that cover the wood in the front and sides. The bottom is exposed as the respective ornament was stolen. The framework was the work of Jose Mariano Avila, renowned silversmith of Mexico City. The painting of the entire church was restored around 1980. The image that is most worshipped is that of the miraculous St. Francis of Assisi, also known as "Panchito" or "El Charrito." The altar is neo-Gothic style and was built at the beginning of the twentieth century. The image is located in the central part of the altar, it is a wooden sculpture, jointed in arms and legs and even made to stand. His Feast Day is on October 4, date in which thousands of pilgrims arrive, especially from the north of the Republic. After the Revolution, catorceños emigrants started to return year after year, to their old home and pay homage to the miraculous saint, fueling a tradition exclusively out of the popular faith that became larger every year, until it reached the huge proportions it has today. The rear walls of the temple are decorated with many “retablos” (votive offerings or hand painted metal plaques) that pilgrims leave to thank the saint for blessings received. It is an expression of popular art that stirs your emotions, because of the paintings and prayers simplicity and naivety.

 

© 2008, Livio Bersano Interior view
Interior view

Image of the Limpia Concepcion
Image of the Limpia Concepcion

Oil painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe made by Jose de Alcíbar in 1784
Oil painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe
made by Jose de Alcíbar in 1784
HummingbirdHummingbird To the oficial page HummingbirdHummingbird
© 2008, Livio BersanoSt. Francis of AssisiSt. Francis of Assisi
Map of the Parish
© 2008, Livio BersanoThe Purisima ConcepcionThe Purisima Concepcion