A couple of weeks ago we visited this fascinating place in Iztapalapa, in the south of Mexico City – the Exconvento de Culhuacán (the former convent of Culhuacán). Though it's a bit of a trip from the centre of the city, the subway takes you to just a few blocks from the convent!
The walk from the subway station to the convent is quite interesting, as you get the feeling (as with so many areas in the south of the city) that you're in a different town (which it was in the past). You walk some winding streets, there are small shops and food stands (oh the cacti salads and the guacamole we saw!), we even saw a coal shop?
The convent was built in 1607, by the Augustinians, and it's a beautiful island of peace. And, on top of that, in colonial times it also served as a languages seminar! The priests had to evangelize in local tongues, right? So this was a place of study and learning for those! Amazing, right?
But the reason we were here was not because of the architecture, although it's one of those places where you can really feel you're in an extremely old place – the stones, the floor, the spaces... it all speaks to you in centuries-old language. We were here mostly because of its famous murals, of which there are plenty!
The walls at the ground level were filled with curious scenes of monastic life, with gorgeous shades of blue...
And at the junction with the ceiling, surrounded by stretches of white angels and beasts, you had all these images of martyrs being shot arrows, being trampled by horses, and what not.
The columns holding the arches facing the inner courtyard were also full of curious images of martyrdom, like this beheaded man...
The upper floor had some stunning and exceedingly detailed murals, about the adoration of the Magi, as well as the entrance of Christ to Jerusalem.
An inner chamber had this pattern that resembled stars of David. That same chamber featured before and after photographs of the convent. Hats off to the restorers, this place was in such a sad state just some decades ago!
The convent also has a small museum upstairs. It's not fantastic, but there are a couple of interesting items, like a record of births, written in very old Spanish, as well as a very cute map of the region, where you can recognize different areas of Mexico City which, back then, were independent localities.
Before we left, we had a look at the cemetery right behind the convent. A curious place, as they seem to have run out of space and you can see tombs that have a bunch of crosses for different people, one behind the other, tightly packed. There was also this tomb of a child (or of children? again, more than one cross on top), as numerous toys had been placed on top. A very curious place indeed.
The coolest thing is that not that many people not from the area know about this place! I mean, Mexico City and all of its surrounding areas are just so full of these treasures! It's insane! Gotta keep exploring...