Querétaro was one of the most opulent and important cities in New Spain (Mexico) during the first decades of the colonial period, since it marked the limit of the so-called civilized world.
To the colonialists from Spain, the territory north of this city was full of barbarians and that is why they decided to establish churches and convents where the spirits of laymen and priests could be strengthened.
Franciscans, barefoot Carmelites, Jesuits, and Dominicans quickly came to Querétaro to start the spiritual conquest of the region.
Most of the city’s churches and convents date from that time and today tell us of their glorious past.
The Church of San Agustín is on the corner of Allende and Pino Suárez. The church was designed during the years 1731-1743 by a local architect in Querétaro, Don Ignacio Mariano de las Casas and his teacher, Fray Luis Martinez Lucio O.S.A.
The church and monastery are great examples of the Baroque style in Latin America. Very richly adorned, the convent is one of the most representative examples of Baroque architecture in Latin America.
The open areas and courtyard are enormous, and their combination of color and form are impressive as well.
The main feature of the sober façade is an image of a crucified Christ. It is surrounded by niches of Saint Joseph, the Virgin of Sorrows, Saint Monica, Saint Rita, Saint Francis, and Saint Augustine.
The dome, one of the most beautiful of its kind in Mexico, has images of life size angels; the tower of the church was never finished.
Members of the Order of Saint Augustine began to live in the building (convento) in 1743, but work on the building continued up to the middle of the eighteenth century.
The cloister (clausura, patio) of the convento is a masterpiece in the Americas and is one of the best examples of baroque work anywhere in the world.
Its fame is due to the elaborate decoration of the arches and columns in the cloister (patio). The columns have strange figures that seem to be staring at visitors.
The fierce faces carved in the bottom floor somehow seem to fascinate and attract.
The effigies on the top floor are all alike and their expressions seem to be more serene.
Over the arches there is a series of intertwined figures that form a chain that imprisons these creatures.
Since 1988 the former convent of Saint Augustine has been the home of the wonderful Querétaro Art Museum, which has a permanent exhibit of European and Mexican works of the sixteenth century, as well as a unique collection of religious paintings from New Spain.
This art museum is one of the most significant attractions that Querétaro offers.