The Archangels of Tupátaro

Tupátaro

Popular art - Faith and history

They call it the Sistine Chapel of Michoacán. This is one of the few places that has maintained its ability to surprise visitors. The Church of Santiago, in the small town of Tupátaro, is a must for all art lovers.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Augustinian missionaries of Tiripetío built this small, sober church, with its austere façade, like so many other churches in so many other towns. The entrance is flanked by Curicaveri and Nana Cutzi, the Purépecha gods representing the sun and the moon. Inside, indigenous artists left their mark, creating a masterpiece.

The main altar is made of wood and its front is a rare example of cornstalk paste work, like the magnificent Lord of Unguarán next to the altar. The altarpiece, completely covered in gold, it is presided over by Santiago and contains paintings by Manuel de la Cerda. In the center stands the Christ of the Pine.

Now look up and admire the church’s crown jewel: the decorated coffered ceiling, the historiated sky of Tupátaro, one of the most impressive on the Don Vasco Route. The tempera painted ceiling glows with gold, red and blue. The mysteries of Mary and then Christ occupy the center nave. And, in their roles as celestial guardians stand 33 powerful archangels, protecting the church from every angle, holding the symbols of passion. Look for the indigenous artists’ details: machetes instead of swords, archangels with the powerful wings of birds of prey. This church is breathtakingly beautiful. Enjoy!

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We recommend

  • Come on Sunday. Listening to Mass at 9.30 in this church is magical. You will normally be able to find a guide from INAH, the National Institute of Archaeology and History. Afterwards you can have breakfast at one of the restaurants in the square.
  • Make sure you visit the cornstalk paste workshop at the opposite end of the garden, an intriguing community initiative. It is open from 5 to 7 pm daily, and all day Sunday.

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