Templo de San Felipe Neri
Just two blocks west of the cathedral, along Independencia, at the corner of Tinoco and Palacios, rises the distinguished facade of the Templo de San Felipe Neri (open for worship 8 a.m.–11 p.m.). The building is immediately notable, for it faces south, unlike the great majority of Oaxaca’s churches, which follow tradition and face west.
Its builders finished the structure, once a convent of the order of San Felipe Neri, and dedicated it to the Virgin of Patrocinio in 1773. The subsequent 1795 earthquake caused extensive damage, which was not completely repaired until the 20th century. Unfortunately, more earthquakes, in 1928 and 1931, inflicted additional destruction. The present restoration was completed in 1985.
The result appears well worth the effort. Original builders crafted the facade in the 17th-century “plateresque” tradition, so-named for the designs, similar to those of fine silverware, using muted green volcanic cantera stone. The sole exception is the noble statue of San Felipe Neri, carved of contrasting yellow cantera, in clerical hat and bishop’s cape, that presides above the front door.
Walk inside to admire the temple’s glorious golden retablo (altarpiece). It towers three stories, inhabited by a host of apostles, saints, angels, and cherubs, all reigned over by the Virgin and finally San Felipe de Neri at the very top.
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Oaxaca, 5th edition