Templo de la Compania Guanajuato
The massive Templo de la Compania has one of the finest interiors of any church in Guanajuato but the exterior is ramshackle and almost ruinous. The floor space is one of the largest of any church found in the capital but this is very deceptive from the tall but jumbled front façade. The Templo de la Compania is the religious centre for the Jesuit order and it is often referred to as the Temple La Compania de Jesus. (The Church of the Society of Jesus).
The Templo de la Compania Guanajuato
The church is a magnificent church with an ornate front Churrigueresque styled facade but the real surprise is on entering. Unlike many other churches the interior is light, bright and spacious, the design is captivating and not over powering as with most Churrigueresque styled churches. The three huge naves are separated by eight massive supportive columns and the walls are lined with religious decorative art. The interior of the Templo de la Compania comes as such a surprise after viewing the almost crumbling exterior.
The Templo de la Compania is located to the north east of Guanajuato and is adjacent to the modern main university campus building with the history of the two establishments is closely related.
History of the Church
During the early history of Guanajuato (1720’s) the land of both the church and the university were owned by the Jesuits (Society of Jesus). The Jesuits have a strong belief in teaching and education and the origins of the University of Guanajuato can be traced back to the early College of the Holy Trinity which was managed by the Jesuits on the present day site.
The 18th century Jesuits were usually of a higher class and this combined with the extreme devotion of the believers resulted in the order both being both powerful and rich. When in 1746 the order decided to construct their church The Jesuits’ were able to fund one of the most magnificent religious buildings of the city, able to rival the churches constructed by silver mine barons.
The construction was one of the largest non-mine relate projects the city has ever seen and was finally inaugurated in 1767. During the 20 years of construction, the Jesuits order had fallen out of favor with continental Europe who were afraid of the growing power base. Both Spain and Portugal expelled all Jesuits from their countries and this applied also to their colonies. The Jesuit order of Guanajuato only had use of their beautiful church for less than 6 months before they were forced out of Mexico.
It was also during this period that the university of Guanajuato broke its ties with the Jesuit religious order. The magnificent Templo de la Compania was left to rot for almost 50 years, in Guanajuato there was an abundance of churches each with close ties to a mines or specialist saints and no order wished to relocate into the Templo La Compania de Jesus. When the Jesuit order were allowed to return to Mexico in 1804, Guanajuato was reinstated as an important Jesuit city and religious centre but the Templo de la Compania was in a very dire state. The magnificent original done the centre piece of the exterior and interior of the church collapsed in 1808 rendering the entire church complex dangerous and not suitable for practicing religion.
The church instead of just being repaired was completely remodeled around the eras latest religious fashions. The remodeling project was started in1869, under the guidance of chief architect Herculano Ramírez who converted Baroque styled elements for Neoclassical designs. The front façade follows the trend of other important Mexican churches in the Churrigueresque style (very elaborate styled carvings) but as Templo de la Compania was constructed later displayed a maturity of the styling. One of the unique additions to the exterior of the church was the massive cupola (dome) which extends for three levels and was designed by architect Vicente Heredia. The interior was styled by the artist Miguel Cabrera who also painted all of the images hung within the church The church was finally completed on the 26th January 1884.