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Templo de San Cosme y San Damián — Oaxaca City, Oaxaca


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Colonial Church     (Q)
Originally the site of the city’s first hospital, also named San Cosme y San Damián, the first church was built here between 1565 and 1568, constructed of mud-bricks walls and wooden roofing. An earthquake leveled both buildings on New Year's Eve in 1603. A new church and hospital were built between 1610 and 1612, this time of stone. Subsequent earthquakes weakened even these hardened structures, and both were torn down in 1745. Reconstruction on a new church and hospital got underway immediately, both reopening in 1752.

On the eve of the Reform War, in the late 1850s, the federal government expropriated both buildings, the hospital sold off to private hands, the church remaining in government possession until 1890, before reverting back to the Church. By then, however, the church had become dilapidated, its structure unsafe, and so once again, it was torn down and rebuilt from scratch, construction on the new church, the one standing today, taking thirty years to complete.

Of all the churches in the city whose origins date back to the colonial period, this one has perhaps the plainest architecture and the least ornamentation. Shaped like a long rectangular box, as if inspired by a shipping container, the church has no transept, no dome, no choir loft, no façade around its main portal. Indeed, there’s little of interest here, except for maybe the plain neoclassical main retablo and the series of small, lateral vaults undulating along the low ceiling of the nave, creating a rippling effect.


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