Architecture / Chiapas
Travelers interested in colonial architecture will not leave Chiapas disappointed. San Cristóbal de las Casas is easily one of Mexico’s finest colonial cities, boasting a beautiful cathedral, elegant Dominican priory and convent, and numerous well-preserved colonial-era structures. Nearby are the smaller, but no less significant, colonial towns of Comitán and Chiapa de Corzo.Destination:Activities:
One of the oldest buildings in San Cristóbal, Casa de Mazariegos (Av. Insurgentes at Diego de Mazariegos) sits on the southeast corner of the central plaza. Constructed in 1529, it is often referred to as Casa Sirena (Mermaid House) because of the three mermaids or serpent women (take your pick) that are visible on its eastern wall—two bordering a window, one on the corner.
Time has destroyed the insignia on the coat of arms over the front door, so although the building often is claimed to have been the home of Diego de Mazariegos, many believe it to be that of the conquistador Andrés de la Tovilla.Destination:Activities:
Constructed in 1528, La Catedral de San Cristóbal (pedestrian walkway, Av. 20 de Noviembre at Real de Guadalupe) sits on the north side of the central square and opens onto the adjoining plaza. The facade is gorgeous, its bright-yellow ocher contrasting with the 17th-century white mortared niches and geometric designs painted white, rust, and black that are reminiscent of the Mudejar style. It’s most impressive in late afternoon, when the building’s colors are ignited by the setting sun.
Inside, the nave and altar are decorated with fine religious art—don’t miss the elaborately carved wooden pulpit.Destination:Activities:
Built in 1547 by the Dominicans, the Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán (Av. 20 de Noviembre near Nicaragua) is arguably the most impressive church of the many churches found in San Cristóbal. It has a gorgeous baroque facade covered with intricately carved mortar, Solomonic columns, and statues tucked into ornate niches—much of it carved by indigenous workers.
The interior is equally impressive, its pulpit covered in gold carvings and backed by countless retablos (religious paintings) that are offered in gratitude for answered prayers. Don’t miss visiting El Rosario chapel, which has gorgeous baroque altarpieces as well as the Holy Trinity of Santo Domingo, considered a masterpiece of Central American colonial sculpture.Destination:Activities:
Chiapa de Corzo is a quiet colonial town between Tuxtla and San Cristóbal best known as the jumping-off point for boat tours through Cañón del Sumidero, a winding must-see canyon whose 1,000-meter (3,281-foot) walls will lodge a crick in your neck in no time. But Chiapa de Corzo has plenty of history and appeal in its own right, and is well worth exploring in conjunction with a trip down the canyon.Destination:Activities:
One of the most unique and striking colonial structures in Chiapas, perhaps all of Mexico, La Pila (The Fountain) rises dramatically from the southern end of Chiapa de Corzo’s large central plaza. Built in 1562, it features classic Mudejar and Gothic features, including an octagonal shape (some say intended to resemble the Spanish crown), numerous arches, and flying buttresses extending from each of the corners.
It’s made entirely of red-orange brick, yet remains in remarkably good condition thanks to extensive restoration. A system of pipes once drew river water into the fountain’s central basin (also octagonal), supplying the town with water and townswomen a place to socialize and do laundry.Destination:Activities:
In 1564, Dominican missionaries chose present-day Tecpatán, then a small Zoque village with a rudimentary church, to serve as the region’s primary mission and convent. Construction of the massive church and convent lasted nearly 50 years and required the work of thousands of Zoque laborers, drawn from all over the region.
Many settled here permanently along with their families, turning the modest village into a veritable indigenous city; even today Tecpatán dubs itself the Capital of the Zoque Empire.Destination:Activities: