The Santa Prisca Church in Taxco is just too exquisitely over the top to bury in a general post.
So this post is dedicated to this incredibly ornate example of Mexican baroque architecture and the glorification of martyrdom, the central subject for the church altar pieces and paintings. Prisca was a young Roman woman tortured and executed for her (early) Christian faith, who has now long been revered as a saint by the Catholic Church.
José de la Borda arrived in Mexico in 1716 when he was just 17 years old, joining his elder brother to work with him at the La Lajuela silver mine near Taxco, one of the richest in all of Mexico, producing not only silver, but gold, iron and much more. After a few years, José set off to find new mineral strikes on his own, eventually founding a mine which became beyond successful, yielding an abundance of silver. So much so that at one point he was the richest man in Mexico. In a faithful and public-spirited expression of thanks for this vast wealth, Borda commissioned the most lavish, the most ornamental and the most costly of churches in all of Mexico, the Santa Prisca Church in Taxco, unsurprisingly almost bankrupting him in the process.
The architectural style of this building is best described as ‘Exuberant Mexican Baroque in Churrigueresque Style’ – a flamboyant pile of pink limestone with two ornately decorated bell towers. The interior is extraordinary, definitely one of the most richly adorned churches that I’ve seen. Soaring carved sculptures dripping in gold and jewels, cheeky painted cherubs, seemingly air-borne angels and seriously saintly saints. Huge gold and crystal chandeliers hang from vaulted ceilings with yet more gold carving. I mean this place is staggeringly over the top, almost too much to take in (or photograph) And when you think of the time, the mid 1700’s, its remote mountain location and its small, mostly indigenous workforce community, then this place is even more outrageously ostentatious. And yet, it does occur to me, for what? A sincere belief in God Almighty or the expression of José de la Borda’s desire to proclaim his own earthly success?
Perhaps no wonder it almost sent him ‘baroque’.
Today, Taxco remains an active mining town, though the silver deposits are almost depleted. Unbelievably, there’s a silver mine beneath this 250-year-old church that’s still operational, with the vibrations from the blasts and the incessant polluting traffic of Taxco now causing cracks and structural problems. In recent years there have been seriously devastating earthquakes in the region, most notably in 2017 and 2022, which significantly damaged Santa Prisca.
Astonishingly, a magnitude 3.6 occurred the very night we left Taxco, so many challenges face this wonderous pile moving forward.
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One could hardly describe this particular church as a model of restraint. Money better spent on the poor, methinks Christ would suggest, but who am I to say, atheistic minx that I am.
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