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Patzcuaro

Plaza Vasco de Quiroga
Plaza Vasco de Quiroga

Pátzcuaro’s town centre is Plaza Vasco de Quiroga or Plaza Grande (named in honour of Michoacan’s first bishop, Don Vasco de Quiroga). The Plaza Grande is just a short, two-block walk from Villa Victoria. Once there, visit the main square stores and discover the creativity and talents of the Pátzcuaro people – shops are packed with all kinds of arts and crafts, from intricate wooden carvings, furniture, and copperware, to carefully woven textiles, basketry, pottery and more.
 


Basilica de la Virgen de la Salud
Basilica de la Virgen de la Salud

Visit the most important temple in Pátzcuaro: the 16th-century Basílica de la Virgen de la Salud, built by order of bishop Don Vasco de Quiroga (whose remains are interred here at the Basílica). The church was planned by “Tata” Vasco, a man who dreamt of building the biggest cathedral in all of the Americas. With a lack of support from the Spanish crown, the original design was never completed; nevertheless, the church serves as a stunning piece of architecture. Designated as a Basilica in 1924, the church features a 16th-century life-sized corn stalk and vegetable paste image of Our Lady of Health (the region’s patron saint). This image attracts a great number of annual pilgrims, offering devotion and asking for the health of the sick – a pilgrimage that’s comparable in scope and magnitude to that of Lourdes in France.
 


Museum of Arts and Popular Industries
Museum of Arts and Popular Industries

Located in Pátzcuaro’s Plaza Grande and only four blocks from Villa Victoria is the Museum of Arts and Popular Industries. The building was erected in the 16th century as the headquarters for the College of San Nicolás Obispo – a school founded by the first bishop of Michoacán, Don Vasco de Quiroga, with the objective to prepare young Spaniards for priesthood and to teach locals how to read, write and perform specialty trades. Today, the museum has a vast collection of lacquers, crafts and other items and boasts a blend of 17th, 18th and 19th-century architecture. (While you’re there, don’t forget to look down: the floor is actually made from flat stone and animal bones!)
 


Temple and College of the Jesuits
Temple and College of the Jesuits

This temple and college dates back to the 16th century and once housed members of the Company of Jesus – Jesuits who arrived to this area at the request of Don Vasco de Quiroga, the first bishop of Michoacán, recognizing the Company of Jesus’ skills in education. When visiting this temple, be sure to stop off at the beautiful patio – a wide, open and tranquil space. At the church, look up to the clock tower: legend has it that the clock was exiled from Spain because it marked an hour that was “disagreeable to the Crown.” Another legend says that the clock killed a young woman when she got in the way of the bell and pendulum right before it was to strike at 12 p.m. (which also explains why the clock doesn’t chime at noon!).
 


El Sagrario Temple
El Sagrario Temple

With construction that started in 1693, it took two centuries for the El Sagrario to be completed and a range of architectural styles and decorative elements can be seen in the present-day building. The temple, with a neoclassical interior and parquetry mosaic-like floor, features a Churrigueresque altar and a small chapel dedicated to the Virgin of Dolores (Our Lady of Sorrows). When visiting this temple, be sure to step out into the tiny (but picturesque) courtyard.
 


House of the Eleven Yards
House of the Eleven Courtyards

One of the most interesting buildings in Pátzcuaro is this former convent of the Dominican nuns of St. Catherine of Sienna that once boasted 11 courtyards. Built in 1742, the colonial structures now house shops that are filled with regional handicrafts, both for sale and for exhibition, and active textile and lacquer workshops. When visiting the House of the Eleven Courtyards, be sure to visit the nearby St. Michael’s Fountain – a protecting statue that was installed to protect the women who came here and claimed they could “feel the devil’s eyes on them.”
 


Plaza Gertrudis Bocanegra
Plaza Gertrudis Bocanegra (Plaza Chica)

One block north from the Plaza Grande is the second most important plaza in Pátzcuaro, Plaza Gertrudis Bocanegra (previously called the Plaza San Agustin and now known as Plaza Chica). Make sure you walk to the centre of the square, too, and see the bronze statue of Dõna Gertrudis Bocanegra, a Pátzcuaro-born heroine who lived during the independence era. If you’re lucky enough to visit Pátzcuaro during a major holiday, like Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) on November 1 and 2, markets generally spill over from the Plaza Grande all the way to Plaza Gertrudis Bocanegra – it’s a wonderful sight!
 


San Agustin Ex-Convent and Theater
Ex-convent of San Agustín and theatre

Built in 1576, this impressive structure is a preserved temple that is now used as a public library. Once here, be sure to check out the famous mural by Juan O’ Gorman, architect and painter, that depicts key figures in the history of Michoacán, including indigenous inhabitants, Spanish conquerors, friars and the even the figure of Don Vasco de Quiroga, the first bishop of Michoacán. Next door to the temple is the Caltzonzin Theatre, a structure built on top of the remnants of the monastery.
 


Virgin of Guadalupe Sanctuary
Sanctuary of Guadalupe

The Sanctuary of Guadalupe is an early-1800s, neoclassical-style temple that’s devoted to the Virgin of Guadalupe. One of the most outstanding aspects of this sanctuary is its four virtues sculptures, placed on pedestals on the façade of the tower. These virtues represent Charity (caridad), Temperance (templanza), Fortitude (la Fortaleza) and Faith (le fé).
 


Temple and Plaza San Francisco
Temple of Francisco

This eclectic-style temple is a step back in history: look for the 16th-century crucifix made of corn stalks and vegetable paste and for the beautiful oil painting that depicts two of the most important religious figures from this Franciscan religious order, the Pope and St. Francis of Assisi. Also, be sure to check out the access gate to the cloister, one of the most beautiful Renaissance pieces in the city, as well as the peaceful fountain in the plaza. If you visit the Temple of San Francisco on a Friday, keep your eyes open for the nearby, open-air pottery market in Plaza San Francisco.