I have been living in Mexico for around 27 years, and during that time, I have frequently visited Atlixco, a pre hispanic town not far from the city of Puebla. It is considered a “Pueblo Mágico”, and is an incredible place to visit. The weather is wonderful, and it is known as the cradle of avocado production. You can sit in the cafe in the town center and enjoy a cup of coffee while admiring the beautiful colonial churches.
The churches in Atlixco are stunning, but there is one in particular, a Franciscan church above the main square that I particularly like to visit, “Santa Maria de Jesus”. My husband and I recently arrived to this church after it was closed, and it was beginning to get dark. I was trying to peek through the cracks in the main door, when the sexton came out with a little white dog (which turned out to be his granddaughter’s) and kindly offered us a tour of the church. We didn’t hesitate.
The sexton, Don Julian, explained that the church was once part of a convent, and was established in the year 1538. Some of the original paintings are still on the walls that surround the garden that was to our right after we entered through the side of the church. After we passed the former convent area, we went deeper inside and came out next to the alter.
This church is unique in that there are elements that are late Gothic (not frequently found in Mexico), such as the vaulted arched ceilings, but the alter piece is Baroque with lavish decorations and gold leaf. This alter piece was taken from the former Carmelite convent in Atlixco and reassembled in this church. The baptismal font is decorated with pre-hispanic motifs but has a talavera basin.
As we wandered through the church, we could barely hear Don Julian’s voice over the rain falling down. After we finished the tour, he allowed us to enter the kitchen area while he went to get us jackets to use to go back to our car. As we walked back in the dark with the rain drizzling over us, I imagined the thousands of souls that have entered and will continue to enter this church as part of their faith. They look for miracles, for answers and for a refuge. The generosity and kindness of Don Julian gave us just that, a refuge, a few minutes in a more peaceful world.