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Templo de San Felipe Neri — Oaxaca City, Oaxaca

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Colonial Church     (D)

Templo de San Felipe Neri — Oaxaca City, Oaxaca

Founded in 1661 by the conservative Oratorian Catholic order, the church is noteworthy for being the place where Benito Juárez (the country’s first indigenous president and leader during the Reform War and the war of occupation by the French) married Margarita Maza in 1843. Construction on the present church began in the 1730s and was completed in 1803. Unlike most churches in the state and throughout the country, it emerged mostly intact from the federal government’s expropriation of church properties in 1859.

Facing south, the church’s tall, narrow retablo façade and twin bell towers ascend from a short, wide plaza, slightly elevated above busy Independencia Avenue, appearing to lord over all that passes beneath them. The retablo facade's overall pattern is horizontal tiers, in this case four, arranged vertically, stacked one on top of the other, the bottom three tiers divided into three rectangular sections, the central sections filled with an arched main portal on the first tier, a statue of St. Philip Neri, the order’s founder, enclosed in an eared frame on the second tier, and an octagonal window opening into the choir loft on the third tier, deep shell niches missing their statues (the church is mostly intact, not completely) filling the outer sections of the bottom three tiers, a gable enclosed relief topping off the façade on the fourth tier.

But the real pièce de résistance awaits inside — the church’s original Churrigueresque main retablo, completely intact, dating from the late 1700s, the finest colonial altarpiece in the city. What’s more, there are four other original late-baroque retablos inside, two tucked away in the east and west transepts, the other two resting against the nave walls.

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