For International Visitors, it’s possibly one of the most frequently overlooked of Mexico City’s “big city museums.” The Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso plays a vital role in the cultural life of the city. It’s conveniently located, and usually vibrating with precisely what many international visitors are looking for. Contemporary, 20th century, and historical art have never been shown off in a more flattering setting.
A joint project of the Federal Ministry of Culture, the Mexico City Government), and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), is a major cultural center. It’s dedicated to:
Many of the most important national and international exhibitions of the past 25 years have been presented at the Antigua Colegio de San Ildefonso.
The result of a merger of three Jesuit institutions, the Colegio de San Ildefonso came about in 1583. The present building was rebuilt during the final 40 years of the 18th century. Unfortunately for the Jesuits, they were expelled from all of Spain and New Spain by King Carlos III. The building then served as a barracks, as a school for the government of new Spain, as a law school, and even as headquarters for the occupying American (1847) and French (1862) troops.
One of the most important examples of viceregal architecture in the Centro Histórico, the complex has three levels and two distinct areas. One is decidely of the Baroque period and contains three courtyards (Chico, de Pasantes, and Grande). A more southerly addition was added between 1907 and 1931, with two additional small courtyards.
During the late 19th century, the building was gradually remodelled to house the National Preparatory School. (Frida Kahlo attended high school here.) The chapel and sacristy were remodeled to house the library and spaces for the laboratories were adapted. An observatory remained until the middle of the 20th century, and earlier chronicles mention the existence of a botanical garden and a small zoo.
Always worth a visit, check the current exhibition schedule here.