Mexican Colonial Architectural History: Brief Annotated Bibliography

Compiled by Paul Bary
Spring 1995. Last updated: October 11, 1996

The scholarly literature on the architectural history of colonial Mexico is extensive and thematically diverse. Spanish-language writings are particularly important, including those of prominent Mexican architectural historians such as Francisco de la Maza and Pedro Rojas. Notwithstanding the contributions of several English-language writers, notably George Kubler, most of the works cited in this bibliography are necessarily in Spanish. General works include Kubler's 1948 classic on the architectural history of the 16th century; Mario Sartor's new book on architecture and urbanism in the 16th century; Joaquin Berchez' excellent 1992 study of the 17th and 18th centuries; Manuel Toussaint's 1949 and Pedro Rojas' 1963 studies of colonial art history, which focus on the architectural achievements; and James Early's 1994 book which serves as an excellent English-language introduction to the field. With only a few additions to the summaries, this bibliography was was compiled from the citations in the Handbook of Latin American Studies.


  • Artigas H., Juan B. Capillas abiertas aisladas de México. Mexico City: UNAM Facultad de Arquitectura, 1982. 251 p., bibliography.
    This extensive study of freestanding open chapels in early colonial Mexico emphasizes their role as creative solution to the evangelization of Mesoamerica. The book focuses on 17 chapels in central Mexico and Yucatan, is richly documented in photographs and plans, summarizes the varieties of chapels, and includes works as late as 1712 (Santa Cruz de las Flores, Jalisco).
  • Baez Macías, Eduardo. El edificio del Hospital de Jesús: historia y documentos sobre su contrucción. Mexico City: UNAM, 1982. 164 p., bibliography, index, and 42 pages of plates.
    This study of the Hospital de Jesús (Mexico City) covers the origin, construction, and architectural changes from 17th century to the present. Based on documentation from the National Archive, this is a detailed examination of a national monument and its social function.
  • Bargellini, Clara. La Catedral de Chihuahua. Mexico City: UNAM Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, 1984. 105 p., bibliography and 61 pages of plates.
    This scholarly well-documented study examines a major monument of northern Mexico, presenting the history of the people involved with the building and its design, including the figures involved in the construction, the Apache crisis which suspended building activity from 1760-1790, and the finishing touches made at the end of the 18th century.
  • Berchez, Joaquin. Arquitectura mexicana de los siglos XVII y XVIII. Mexico City: Grupo AZABACHE, 1992. 288 p., bibliography.
    This excellent book analyzes the historical forces which shaped the careers of several major architects, including Pedro Arrieta, José Durán, Diego de la Sierra, and Francisco Guerrero y Torres. Includes over 100 photographs and illustrations.
  • Bretos, Miguel A. Arquitectura y arte sacro en Yucatán, 1545-1823. Mérida: Producción Editorial Dante, 1987. 277 p., bibliography.
    Contains seven essays about art and architecture in colonial Yucatán, on topics such as influence of Franciscan missions; and studies of the Convent of San Bernardino de Sisal; Camarín de la Vírgen and the Orden Mariana; Church of San Cristóbal de Mérida; churches in western Yucatán; role of silver production; works of Benito Ferraez; and sculpture of Pascual Estrella.
  • Castro Morales, Efrain. Arte virreinal en el Occidente. Madrid: La Muralla, 1987. 54 p., bibliography.
    This short text includes description and historical background of the churches and convents of western Mexico: Michoacan, Colima, Jalisco, and Sinaloa. Also includes 60 good slides.
  • Diaz, Marco. La arquitectura de los jesuitas en Nueva Espana: Las instituciones de apoyo, colegios y templos. Mexico City: UNAM Instituto de Investigaciones Esteticas, 1982. 289 p., bibliography.
    Authoritative study of the churches, colleges, monasteries, and other buildings constructed by the Jesuits. Includes chapters on 16th and 17th century works (p. 25-74); 18th century works (p. 75-184); and stylistic continuity of Jesuit architecture (p. 185-204). Appendix contains documents on the history of many Jesuit buildings (p. 217-276). Includes dozens of high-quality photographs.
  • Diaz, Marco. Arquitectura en el desierto: misiones jesuitas en Baja California. Mexico City: UNAM, 1986. 159 p., bibliography.
    Study of historical conditions that resulted in the construction of many Jesuit missions in Baja California during 1697-1768, most of which are architecturally undistinguished. This is a well covered subject (five other authors recently covered the same monuments).
  • Diaz, Marco. Itinerarios barrocos en Tlaxcala. Tlaxcala, Mexico: Instituto Tlaxcalteca de la Cultura, 1986. 56 p., bibliography.
    Guide to Tlaxcala monuments featuring Baroque characteristics, organized in five routes: 1) the road to Malintzin and San Miguel; 2) the royal road to San Martin; 3) the highlands road; 4) the herd zone road; and 5) the pulque zone road.
  • Early, James. Colonial architecture of Mexico. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1994. 221 p., bibliography and index.
    A good English-language introduction to the main styles and historical issues. Includes chapters on architecture for the viceroyalty (p. 1-10); architecture of evangelism (p. 11-38); urban architecture (p. 39-62); Baroque religious life and architecture (p. 63-116; 163-191); popular or folk architecture (p. 117-128); and 18th century domestic and civic architecture (p. 129-162).
  • Fernandez Garcia, Martha. Artificios del barroco: Mexico y Puebla en el siglo XVII. Mexico City: UNAM Coordinacion de Humanidades, 1990. 160 p., bibliography.
    Compares 18th century Baroque architectural styles of Mexico City and Puebla, and presents major examples. Includes chapters on Nueva Espana en el siglo XVII (p. 5-10); La arquitectura barroca novohispana (p. 11-16); Los arquitectos en la Nueva Espana (p. 17-28); El nacimiento de la arquitectura barroca en las ciudades de Mexico y Puebla (p. 29-60); El triunfo de la arquitectura barroca en cantera: la ciudad de Mexico (p. 61-106); y la ciudad de Puebla (p. 107-154). Includes 16 color and 67 black and white photographs.
  • Fernandez Garcia, Martha. Retrato hablado: Diego de la Sierra, un arquitecto barroco en la Nueva Espana. Mexico City: UNAM Instituto de Investigaciones Esteticas, 1986.
    This is a detailed study of the life, work, personality, and professional development of Diego de la Sierra, an artist from Seville who worked in Mexico at the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century, erecting many structures in Puebla.
  • Kubler, George. Mexican architecture of the sixteenth century. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1948. 2 vols., 574 pp., 468 illustrations.
    Chapters are devoted to mendicant friars; demographic problems; urbanism; design and supervision; labor, materials and techniques; civil architecture; religious architecture other than cathedrals; painting and sculpture. The approach is statistical and anthropological. Appendix lists the dating of the Franciscan, Dominican and Augustinian monasteries. This is a major contribution to the literature on Mexican historical architecture.
  • Las iglesias coloniales del puerto de Campeche. Campeche, Mexico: Universidad del Sudeste, 1986. 132 p., bibliography, black and white illustrations.
    Compilation of previous studies on the colonial religious architecture of Campeche, a primary port of Mexico. The history of churches in Campeche from the 16th to 19th centuries is noteworthy due to the city's commercial importance.
  • Maldonado Lopez, Celia. La Ciudad de Mexico en el siglo XVII. Mexico City: Depto. del Distrito Federal, Comite Interno de Ediciones Gubernamentales, 1988. 85 p., 8 plates, bibliography.
    Detailed account of the architectural development of Mexico City in the 17th century. Describes the urban development and architectural characteristics of public buildings, churches, parks, plazas, convents, colleges, hospitals, and markets.
  • Markman, Sidney David. Architecture and Urbanization in Colonial Chiapas, Mexico. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1984. 443 p.
    A very detailed study of provincial architecture and the urbanization of Spanish colonial towns in Chiapas, including urban histories of such towns as Comitán and San Cristóbal de las Casas, in the period when Chiapas belonged to the Reino de Guatemala. Markman argues that the architecture showed very little similarity to that of Guatemala, indicating that Chiapas remained unaffected by the architectural and historical currents from the south.
  • Maza, Francisco de la. Arquitectura de los coros de monjas en México. Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1973. 123 p., over 100 photographs.
    This study of the interior of convents in nine colonial Mexican cities provides insight on architectural considerations and the daily life of nuns who spent their lives in these enclosures.
  • Maza, Francisco de la. El arte colonial en San Luis Potosí. Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1985. 91 p., 97 pages of plates.
    An excellent study of the architecture, painting and sculpture of the northern city, written in Maza's scholarly, personal style; includes an excellent collection of over 100 good to fair quality black and white illustrations.
  • Maza, Francisco de la. El churrigueresco en la ciudad de Mexico. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1969. 125 p.
    Authoritative guide to the churrisgueresco style, concentrating on the estípite column and dealing with interior retablos and exterior designs, both civil and religious. Includes 55 well chosen black and white photographs of poor to fair quality.
  • Maza, Francisco de la. La ciudad de México en el siglo XVII. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica; Secretaría de Educación Pública, Cultura SEP, 1985. 135 p.
    Citing contemporary sources, this series of essays on the city, its architecture, and people, is a valuable source for the study of 17th century religious architecture. Includes 65 black and white photographs with details of old maps and paintings of important buildings.
  • Maza, Francisco de la. Los templos de San Felipe Neri de la ciudad de México, con historias que parecen cuentos. Mexico City, 1970.
    Describes the history of the oratory and its older (17th century) and newer (18th century) churches in Mexico City. Includes photographs taken before, during, and after restorations.
  • Mendiola Quezada, Vicente. Arquitectura del Estado de México: en los siglos XVI, XVII, XVIII y XIX. Toluca: Gobierno del Estado de México, 1985. 363 p., 43 pages of plates.
    This book examines the colonial architecture and monuments of the State of Mexico, establishing a clear difference between buildings constructed for Indians and mestizos, and those intended for religious, military, and civil use. Provides detailed descriptions of some buildings.
  • Morales Bocardo, Rafael. La sacristía franciscana de San Luis Potosí: una obra del barroco estípite. San Luis Potosí: Editorial Universitaria Potosina, 1984. 63 p., 68 leaves of plates, bibliography.
    This short book highlights the architectural addition of the sacristy to the monastery church of San Francisco in San Luis Potosí. Builtl in 1749-1755 the sacristy was one of the earliest uses of the ultrabaroque estípite in New Spain, preceded only by La Compania in Guanajuato.
  • Oaxaca: monumentos del centro histórico, patrimonio cultural de la humanidad. Mexico City: Secretaría de Desarrollo Urbano y Ecología, 1987. 353 p., bibliography.
    Written in connection with UNESCO's declaration of the city of Oaxaca as "patrimonio de la humanidad," this is a study of the historical evolution of the city, primarily the different styles of religious architecture. Twenty-six structures are analyzed for style and architectural characteristics. Includes excellent black and white photographs and floor plans.
  • Perry, Richard; and Perry, Rosalind. Maya Missions: Exploring the Spanish Colonial Churches of Yucatán. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Espadana Press, 1988. 249 p., bibliography.
    This travel guide covers the colonial religious architecture of Yucatán. Includes well documented historical background, descriptions of sites and churches, drawings and maps. A companion to Perry's 1994 guide to the Maya missions of colonial Chiapas.
  • Ramírez Montes, Guillermina, compiler. La escuadra y el cincel: documentos sobre la construcción de la Catedral de Morelia. Mexico City: Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, UNAM, 1987. 181 p., 14 pages of plates, bibliography, and index.
    Compilation of documents on the construction of Morelia cathedral, originally known as the Cathedral of Guayangareo, the former name of the region. Most of the documents belong to the Archivo Nacional de Indias and the Archivo General de la Nación, and are organized in chronological order from 1618-1744, the dates corresponding to the Cathedral's construction.
  • Rojas, Pedro. La Casa de los Mascarones. Mexico City: UNAM Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, 1985. 83 p., 18 pages of plates, bibliography.
    A detailed study of the architectural history, style, and evolution of the Casa de Mascarones, contructed in 1562, one of the national monuments of Mexico City associated with José Diego Hurtado de Mendoza from 1766-1771. Good documentation and very good illustrations.
  • Rojas, Pedro. Historia general del arte mexicano: época colonial. Mexico City: Editorial Hermes, 1963. 233 p., bibliography.
    This excellent overview of Mexican colonial art includes over 140 pages on architectural topics, including colonial houses, church and civil architecture, etc., divided into two main sections on the arts in the realms of the Indians and the Spaniards. Includes 208 illustrations, including 30 in color. Rojas provides good analysis of the historical influences on architectural production, including patronage issues.
  • Sartor, Mario. Arquitectura y urbanismo en Nueva España: siglo XVI. Mexico City: Grupo AZABACHE, 1992. 286 p., bibliography.
    Sartor presents an excellent analytical study of the relationship between architecture and the growth of the cities in 17th century Mexico, organized in five parts: La Organización del Espacio Urbano y la Fundación de las Nuevas Ciudades (p. 19-54); Arquitectura Civil (p. 55-90); Arquitectura Religiosa (p. 91-192); and Problemas Estilísticos (p. 193-260). A beautifully written and illustrated book, including over 100 high quality color photographs.
  • Silva Mandujano, Gabriel. La Catedral de Morelia: arte y sociedad en la Nueva España. Morelia: Comité Editorial del Gobierno de Michoacán, 1984. 148 p., bibliography.
    This book examines the history and design of the colonial Cathedral of Valladolid (now Morelia), built between 1660 and 1744; discusses the demography and sources of monies used in its construction; and analyzes its Baroque style reminiscent of Italian architecture.
  • Sleight, Eleanor Friend. The Many Faces of Cuilapan: A Historical Digest of a Sixteenth-Century Dominican Monastery and Church Complex and Village, Oaxaca, Mexico. Orlando, Fla.: Pueblo Press, 1988. 177 p., bibliography.
    This historical and geographical account of the village of Cuilapan in Oaxaca State contains historical and architectural descriptions of the 16th century Dominican monastery and village churches. Includes excellent quality photographs.
  • Toussaint, Manuel. Colonial Art in Mexico. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967. Elizabeth W. Wilder, translator of original published by UNAM, 1949. 493 p., bibliography and index.
    This standard text in the field of Mexican colonial art history includes a major focus on the architectural history, including chapters on Medieval Architecture (p. 9-37); Baroque Architecture (p. 179-212); Great Religious Architecture (p. 275-302); Civil Architecture of the 18th Century (p. 303-332); and Neoclassic Architecture (p. 405-429). Includes numerous high quality black and white photographs and an excellent bibliography.
  • Tovar de Teresa, Guillermo. The City of Lost Palaces: Chronicle of a Lost Heritage. Mexico City: Vuelta, 1990.
    This excellent two-volume pictorial study of the history and styles of colonial architecture in Mexico City includes brief text passages in each section and is divided into chapters on design and nomenclature; the Plaza Mayor; streets around the Plaza Mayor; other streets; civic buildings; convents for friars; convents for nuns; and hospitals and schools. Volume 1 deals briefly with independence era buildings, but the bulk of the study covers the colonial period. Includes well over 100 high quality photographs.