Members of the Order of Saint Augustine first came to the city of Antequera de Oaxaca in 1576. This was forty three years after the first Augustinians arrived in Mexico.
These men distinguished themselves there by the educational activities that they initiated. They opened a school of humanities, where they taught everything from primary education to the arts and the theology.
Until the arrival of the Jesuits, they included higher education, and filled leadership positions in the recently-founded university.
Juan Adriano O.S.A. founded the Augustinian mission in Oaxaca. The bishop of Oaxaca, Fernando de Albuquerque, donated the land on which the Augustinians built their convento.
Their first convento and church are not the ones that stand today, and almost no details about them are known. They were of different design to the structures that replaced them on the same sites.
The church was consecrated in 1586, although it was not finished completely until 1596.
The present church was begun in 1699, and sufficiently complete to be consecrated in 1722. The names of two major benefactors have been recorded, Lorenzo de Mendoza, and a Portuguese named Don Manuel Fernandez Fiallo.
Its facade is one of the most ornate in the region. It has three sections, in which are carved into stone the images of Saint Augustine and nine other saints of the Augustinian tradition.
The interior of the church has splendid altars and sculptures in the baroque style. The main altar covers the entire end wall of the church, and is over fifteen metres in height.
Dedicated to Saint Augustine, is of carved wood that has been laminated in gold. As well as a sculpture of Augustine, it contains sculptures of other saints of the Augustinian tradition: Alypius, Thomas of Villanova, Fulgentius, and John of Sahagún.
The former Augustinian convento was taken over by the Federal Government by the exclaustration decree of 1862. It was given to the Institute of Arts and Sciences.
In 1893 Bishop Eulogio Gillow purchased it from the government, for use as a charitable house for orphans and infants.
This project was inaugurated by the wife of General Porfirio Diaz in 1893. This charitable organisation continues today, and now uses the former convento as part of a school.
Augustinians still live and work in Oaxaca today.
Photos (at right)
Photo 1: Facade.
Photo 2: Detail of facade above the main door. Saint Augustine and two angels.
Photo 3: Main altar.
San Agustín, Oaxaca. Excellent photographs.