Expert opinion
The Jewel in the Crown
The Church of San Francisco Javier, Tepotzotlán

The most representative work of the National Museum of the Vice-Regal Period (former home of the Jesuit College of Tepotzotlán) is the church of San Francisco Javier and its adjoining chapels: the House of Loreto, the Shrine to the Virgin and the Reliquary of Saint Joseph.

The church dates from 1682 and was paid for by Father Pedro Medina Picazo and his family, but the interior and facade were renewed in the mid-eighteenth century. The altarpieces of the chancel and the transept were designed and made by Miguel Cabrera e Higinio de Chávez, under the supervision of Father Pedro Reales, the college rector. The mural painting on the chancel vaults, as well as the paintings in the vestry, choir loft and choir were executed by Cabrera, while the facade was completed in 1762 by the architect Ildefonso Iniesta Bejarano.

The altarpieces, carved in cedar wood and decorated with gold leaf, are dedicated to Saint Francis Xavier (the church’s patron saint), Saint Francis Borgia, Saint Stanislaus Kostka, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the Virgin of Guadalupe, Saint Joseph, the Virgin of Light, the precious blood of Christ and the patronage of the Virgin.

The first House of Loreto (a faithful copy of the original in Loreto, Italy) was built in 1679 as commissioned by Father Juan Bautista Zappa. The idea was to reproduce the house of Nazareth, the space where Saint Gabriel’s annunciation to the Virgin Mary had occurred. The House of Loreto which is currently preserved and the Shrine to the Virgin were opened in 1733. They were paid for by Manuel Tomás de la Canal.

Finally, the Reliquary of Saint Joseph was dedicated in 1738 and received its name because it housed a fragment attributed to the saint’s tunic. Its interior is decorated with stucco and paintings signed by José de Ibarra and Francisco Martínez. The floor of this group of chapels is covered in Talavera tiles.
INAH-DMC/Héctor Montaño
House of Loreto
INAH-DMC/Héctor Montaño
Altarpiece to Saint Ignatius
INAH-DMC/Héctor Montaño
Main altarpiece
INAH-DMC/Héctor Montaño
Detail of the altarpiece to Saint Ignatius
INAH-DMC/Héctor Montaño
Reliquary of Saint Joseph
INAH-DMC/Héctor Montaño

  • Montero Alarcón, Alma, 2011, Jesuitas. Su expresión mística y profana en la Nueva España, México, Gobierno del Estado de México / INAH.
  • Maquívar, María del Consuelo, 1982, Los retablos de Tepotzotlán, México, INAH.
  • Miguel Cabrera. Las tramas de la creación, 2015, México, INAH.
  • Tepotzotlán, la vida y la obra en la Nueva España, México, Asociación de Amigos del Museo Nacional del Virreinato / BBVA Bancomer / INAH, 2003.


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