MartÍn de Acevedo O.S.A. is another friar also possibly involved in the history of the construction of the convento. He was the Augustinian prior (community leader) there in about the year 1600.
His picture occupies a central position underneath the main staircase, beside effigies of Pedro lxcuincuitlapilco and lnica Juan Atocpan, the chiefs of the towns of lxcuincuitlapilco and Actopan respectively.
Because of this prominent portrait, the architect Luis Mac Gregor has raised the possibility that MartÍn de Acevedo O.S.A. was the one who commissioned the painting of the murals on the walls and vaults, and possibly other works and transformations in the building.
With the secularisation of monasteries and the restriction on religious orders by the government law of 16th November 1750, the church was staffed by a diocesan priest, Juan de la Barreda. The monastery and its lands were sectioned and sold. In 1873 the chapel was also sold by the government to Mr Carlos Mayorga for 369 pesos.
Among various uses made of the monastery building over the years was that of a museum, a hospital, a primary school and the boarding section of a secondary school.
On 27th June 1933 the building was taken over by the Director of Cultural Monuments of the federal government, and the restoration of the building as part of the cultural heritage of Mexico began. This continued the work of the artist Robert Montenegro, who in about the year 1927 had begun to remove the heavy layers of lime that have been painted over the murals near the main staircase.
On behalf of the Director, the architect, Luis MacGregor made an assessment of the property and in 1933 and 1934. He found the building still to be sound, without any severe problems endangering its integrity. Even so, the centuries of lack of suitable maintenance had caused significant deterioration.
MacGregor ordered initial steps to halt further deterioration of the buildings and their murals. He also directed the removal of modifications that had been made when parts of the ex-convento had been adapted for use as a hospital and as the residence of a boarding school.
Not much in the way of positive restoration happened until a major project between December 1992 and April 1994. During that period, extensive repairs and restoration were made to the roof, drainage, flooring, to cracked walls, to the supports of the bells. Extensive painting was also undertaken.
The careful work of the artistic restoration of the murals in the church and monastery was carried out according to high international standards.
Outside the building, part of the original orchard was recovered, and converted into pathways and a botanical garden of local flora.
Except for the absence of some works of art originally prepared for the building, the ex-convento of San Nicholas de Tolentino at Actopan in Hidalgo State, Mexico is one of the finest examples of the Augustinian architectural contribution to sixteenth-century Mexico and to world heritage generally.
It is now a Musuem of Religious Art.
Photos (at right):
Picture 1: Cloister (clausura, patio) outside of the refectory.
Picture 2: Painted vault of santuary of the church.
Picture 3: Painted vault of former monastery corridor.
Picture 4: Main entrance to monastery, to the right of the church.