On the outskirts of Morelia’s historic district in Michoacán, Mexico stands a church which is the very definition of the word “contrast” :The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe (El Santuario de Guadalupe).
Because hiding within the plain, weathered brown exterior is one of the most astonishing and ornate interiors that we’ve seen anywhere in the world.
The church was built in the early 1700s, which helps explain its unadorned, Baroque exterior. But when it was revamped in 1915, the designers and craftsmen clearly got different marching orders.
Every inch of the temple’s interior is adorned with gold leaf and brightly colored flowers. It’s a marvelous study in the beauty of colorful plasterwork and repetitive patterns. And when sunlight streams in, the entire interior glistens and glows.
I wasn’t able to find much information on the motivations behind the redecoration, but I did find an interesting analogy with another famous church – The Hagia Sofia in Istanbul. According to religious scholars, for Byzantine Christians, a simple exterior with rough, plaster and dull brown color symbolized earthly life and the physical body. The ornate interior with light and lots of color, symbolized heaven and the spiritual life.
I’m not certain of the real message, but one thing is for sure: someone had no problem mixing a bit of bling with belief.
James and Terri