San Pedro y San Pablo College, Mexico City

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Facade of church/museum

The San Pedro y San Pablo College complex has seen a lot of changes since it was built in late 16th and early 17th centuries, and today the church portion of the complex is home to the Museo de las Constituciones (Museum of the Constitutions.[1] While only the former church houses the museum, the old school complex stretches along San Ildefonso Street ending at Republica de Venezuela Street.[2]


Views of church ceiling

San Pedro y San Pablo was the second college founded by Jesuits,[3] who were sent to the new colony in the 16th century in part to start schools. The group that founded this college was headed by Father Pedro Sanchez.[4] and the official founding occurred in 1574 with the name of Colegio Máximo de San Pedro y San Pablo (Great College of Saints Peter and Paul).[2] It was called "Máximo" because it was built to oversee the training of priests in Mexico City, Tepotzotlan, Puebla, Guadalajara, Zacatecas, Guatemala and Mérida.[4] Construction of the facility began in 1576 funded by Don Alonso de Villaseca and others.[2] The college church on the corner of El Carmen and San Ildefonso was built by Jesuit architect Diego Lopez de Arbaizo between 1576 and 1603.[5] The church annex was completed in 1603 by Diego Lopez de Albaize, and the rest of the college complex was finished in 1645.[4]

The purpose of the school was to provide university-level education to young Creole men.[3] It was divided into the Lesser Schools, which taught humanities and Greek/Latin grammar, and the Superior Schools, which focused on theology, the arts and philosophy. The institution educated young men for both religious and secular vocations.[5] Two of its more notable alumni are Francisco Javier Alegre and Francisco Javier Clavijero,[3] reaching its peak during the first half of the 18th century when it had about 800 students enrolled.[5]

When the Jesuits were expelled from Spanish lands in 1769, the college was forced to close.[3] The school building was given to civil authorities, who first used it as a barracks and later to house the Monte de Piedad foundation.[5] The church fell into Augustine hands, who took out most of the church's decoration. The altarpieces, paintings and other decorative objects were redistributed to other churches, especially to the Metropolitan Tabernacle of the Cathedral, where many of these pieces still remain.[2] During this time, the complex began to seriously deteriorate.[5]

When the Jesuits were allowed to return fifty years later in 1816, they found the complex nearly in ruins.[2][5] They worked to rebuild both the church and the school, with much of the physical reconstruction done by Cristóbal Rodríguez.[3][2][5]

Side doorway

However, the San Pedro y San Pablo College never returned to its function, mostly due to the Mexican War of Independence. Shortly after independence in 1821, a number of important events occurred in the church building. In 1823, after proclaiming the independence of Mexico, Agustín de Iturbide held meetings here which led to the promulgation of the "Reglamento Provisional del Imperio" (Provisional Regulations of the Empire). In the following year, the initial sessions of the Constitutional Congress were held here, which wrote the first Federal Constitution of Mexico in 1824.[2] After Iturbide's short reign as emperor, Guadalupe Victoria was sworn in as the first president of Mexico here.[5]

The church reopened for worship from 1832 to 1850, but then closed to become the library of the San Gregorio College.[2] During this time, the Virgin of Loreto image of Mexico City was here from 1832 to 1850 when it was thought that the church it belonged to might collapse.[4] Later, it had quite a number of uses such as a dance hall, an army depot and barracks, a correctional school called Mamelucos, a mental hospital and a storage facility for Customs.[2][5]

From 1921 to 1927, the building was remodeled by José Vasconcelos and inaugurated as a "Hall of Discussion" with an office dedicated to a campaign against illiteracy. Vasconcelos had the church building redecorated, adding a number of important early modern mural work by artists such as Xavier Guerrero and Roberto Montenegro.[2]

From 1927 to 1930, the building was converted to workshops for the Academy of San Carlos, which had become integrated with the re-established National University (now UNAM). The Escuela Popular Nocturna de Música (School of Popular Evening Music) also occupied part of the building.[2] In this way, the complex became part of University property, which it remains.[5] In the early 1930s the university made it part of the National Preparatory School, and shortly after that it was also used as a secondary school, to house the School of Theater, an exhibition hall and other uses.[2][5]

In 1944, the church part was inaugurated by President Camacho as the National Periodical Archive (Hermeroteca Nacional), which it remained until 1979.[3][5] It now houses the Museum of Light.[6]


Window with seal of University

The facade of the church portion of the complex is Neoclassic in design,[4] with a portal that is flanked by two pairs of Doric pilasters, which extend up to frame a window which is stained-glass in the design of the coat-of-arms of UNAM. Above the window is a triangular pediment which has a niche containing a statue of Athena. The portal is topped with a large curved pediment with a small crest bearing the coat-of-arms of Spain. The bell tower of the church is situated on the northwest side, behind the main façade.[5]

The inside of the church is in the form of a cross, with thick interior buttresses that marked off space for the church's various chapels.[3] These buttresses extend upwards to support a handkerchief-vaulted ceiling. These interior arches have been painted with rustic-style flora and fauna created by Roberto Montenegro, Jorge Enciso, Gabriel Fernández Ledesma and Rafael Reyes Espindola.[2][5]

Another feature of the church is its three stained-glass window pieces. Two of these were designed by Roberto Montenegro and called "La Vendedora de Pericos" (The Parakeet Seller), and the other is called "El Jarabe Tapatio" (The Jarabe Dance of Guadalajara). The stained glass window with the seal of the University visible on the church's facade was designed by Jorge Enciso.[2] All of these designs were then crafted by Eduardo Villaseñor.[5]

Mural named "The Tree of Life" or "The Tree of Science" by Montenegro

The original decoration of this church is long gone. What remains is the decorative painting that was commissioned by José Vasconcelos in the 1920s.[2] In addition to the decorative work on the buttresses and arches, there are a few murals. In the presbytery, Roberto Montenegro painted a mural which is alternately called "The Tree of Life" and "The Tree of Science.[3] Xavier Guerrero decorated the dome with paintings that were inspired by the zodiac.[5] In the stairway in the northwest corner of the patio, there is a fresco done by Roberto Montenegro in 1923 called "The Festival of the Holy Cross" which is said to be done in a style to mimic Diego Rivera.[3] The cloister was decorated by Dr. Atl and Robert Montenegro but these works have been lost. The most important of these was called "The Festival of the Cross," which was painted in the stairwell of the east patio.[4] Later, an allegory of the Mexican Revolution was painted here called "The Iconographic Museum of the Revolution" by Manuel Fernandez Ledezma, which was never finished.[5]

The rest of the complex which housed the college is practically devoid of decoration except for the seal of the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico on the facade. This part of complex originally had four patios but two were demolished to make way for Republica de Venezuela Street. In one of the remaining patios, there is an obelisk that records the three institutions of learning that have been housed at the site. Today, this part of the building is dedicated to a number of uses, one of which is being the home of Secondary School #6.[4]


  1. ^ "Museo de las Constituciones" [Museum of the Constitutions]. Sistema de Información Cultural (in Spanish). Mexico: CONACULTA. Retrieved June 25, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Ex templo de San Pedro y San Pablo" (in Spanish). Retrieved 2009-05-20. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Bueno de Ariztegui (ed), Patricia (1984). Guia Turistica de Mexico – Distrito Federal Centro 3. Mexico City: Promexa. p. 84. ISBN 968-34-0319-0. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "Colegio de San Pedro y San Pablo Secretaria de Turismo de la Ciudad de Mexico" (in Spanish). Retrieved 2009-05-20. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Galindo, Carmen; Magdelena Galindo (2002). Mexico City Historic Center. Mexico City: Ediciones Nueva Guia. pp. 94–95. ISBN 968-5437-29-7. 
  6. ^ "Museo de la Luz" (in Spanish). Retrieved 2009-06-02. 

Coordinates: 19°26′11.6″N 99°7′45.58″W / 19.436556°N 99.1293278°W / 19.436556; -99.1293278