The Templo de Santa Inés is the former church of the Convent dedicated to the same saint. The convent is today the José Luis Cuervas museum immediately to the north of the church on La Academia street. The Church’s two doors on the Calle Moneda indicate that it was part of a women’s convent. The convent, founded in 1600, suffered a series of tragedies, including flooding and fire over the course of the 17th century. The convent had a smaller church or chapel here, but the new temple was built in stages over the latter half of the 18th century.
The temple is important, stylistically, for marking the transition between the older Baroque style and the Neo-Colonial style that would come to dominate most religious architecture for the next 100+ years. The San Carlos Academy of Art, for whom the street is named, open in 1781. One big reason for its opening was to more thoroughly impose the Neo-Classical style onto the Spanish Empire. The Academy almost immediately put pressure on the builders of this Church to see that the building met its new counter-reformation standards. The architect Francisco Guerrero y Torres was hired to replace and build over the temple built some hundred years prior by Alonso Martínez López.
The church is still dedicated to Saint Agnes of Rome. Her role as one of the early Christian martyrs is not often recalled, and in truth, is likely obscured by legends of the early church. She was born into Roman nobility in 291 CE and martyred 12 or 13 years later during the reign of Diocletian. She’s the patron saint of chastity and purity and often of young girls and girl scouts. Many church’s will commemorate her life on January 21.
The church is noted for the original carved wooden reliefs on the outside doors, and for the dome. The doors depict Saint Agnes of Rome and Santiago Matamoros, that is, St. James the Moore Slayer. There are also depictions of Diego Caballero and Inés de Velasco who’d been patrons of the early convent. One of the colonial period‘s most accomplished painters, Miguel Cabrera, was buried in the church even well before the newer temple was completed. Cabrera died in 1768.
The Templo de Santa Inés was rededicated in 1790 although the dome was unfinished at that time. It remained part of the convent until 1861 when the property was nationalized. It spent some time as a warehouse for fodder but was eventually converted into a parish church. Today, it’s one important stop on a trip into some of the deepest parts of the Historic Center.
On the doors of this beautiful temple one can read the story of the martyrdom of Saint Agnes, that of Saint James the Apostle, and of the patronage of the Counts of La Cadena for the community of nuns in the convent. On September 17, 1600, the first Conceptionist nuns entered the convent of Santa Inés, sponsored by the Counts of La Cortina. They maintained the temple and the convent in full luxury. The first abbess was Sister Catarina de San Juan. The temple was rebuilt between 1783 and 1790. It was then re-decorated in a NeoClassical style by the masters of the neighboring Academy of San Carlos. Miguel Cabrera and José de Ibarra, two of the greatest painters of the novo-Hispanic Baroque, are buried in the altar of the brotherhood of the Virgen de la Luz. You can still admire on the wall over Academia Street, the niche with the carving of Saint Agnes.
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