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Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso

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:

  • Exhibitions to familiarize the Mexican public with the richness and diversity of the Mexican artistic heritage 
  • Collections from foreign museums never before presented in Mexico
  • Providing learning experiences to accompany all of the above 

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 Building

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.

Antiguo Colegio de San IldefonsoBy 1583, the Jesuits has put forward an educational strategy with the creation of the Colegio de San Ildefonso. The institution was supported by Philip III and was rebuilt in the early 18th century to hold the Colegio Chico, the Colegio Grande, and a courtyard for interns. In 1767, the Jesuits were expelled from the all of the dominions of Charles III, and San Ildefonso was left as a student residence. It later became a college again, but now administered by the Secular Clergy. In the 19th century, it served as a barracks three times until the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria (National Preparatory School) was created in the building in 1867. In 1910, that School was incorporated into the National University, but the building continued to serve as a preparatory school until 1980. Between 1907 and 1931 several spaces were built on the Justo Sierra Street side. Among them was the Simón Bolívar Amphitheater and the neocolonial facades. On the San Ildefonso side is the front of a small school with a sculpture of the Virgin of the Rosary carved in alabaster, and a relief of San Ildefonso receiving the chasuble from the hands of the Virgin. Inside is a remarkable group of murals by several painter that constitute an invaluable collection from the Mexican muralist movement. The Salón El Generalito has part of the convent of San Agustín and some portraits of schoolboys from the Viceregal period, among other treasures.

Heart of México Walking Route:  Loreto-San  Ildefonso Route

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Proyecto “Corredor de Cultura Digital”.

Nombre de la investigación: Investigación Centro Histórico, Monumentos, Edificios y Puntos de Interés (2023)

Dirección de investigación y diseño de Rutas: Acércate al Centro A.C. Guadalupe Gómez Collada

Coordinación e investigación histórica: Fideicomiso del Centro histórico Dir. Maestra Loredana Montes

How to get here


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