Sanctuary of Atotonilco: A World Heritage Site…

The Sanctuary of Atotonilco  is a church complex and a World Heritage Site, designated along with nearby San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The complex was built in the 18th century by Father Luis Felipe Neri de Alfaro who, according to tradition, was called upon by a vision of Jesus with a crown of thorns on his head and carrying a cross.

The main feature of the complex is the rich Mexican Baroque mural work that adorns the main nave and chapels. This was chiefly the work of Antonio Martinez de Pocasangre over a period of thirty years. The mural work has led the complex to be dubbed the “Sistine Chapel of Mexico”.

The complex remains a place of worship and penance to this day, attracting as many as 5,000 visitors every week. We were lucky, only a few visitors were there when our group arrived so we were able to shoot without too much interference.

The Sanctuary, officially called the “Santuario de Dios y de la Patria” (Sanctuary of God and Country), but is better known as the Sanctuary of Jesús Nazareno de Atotonilco. It is located in the small, rural community of Atotonilco, which has a population of approx. 600.

The main church is a single nave without a cupola, lined on the north and south flanks by chapels and chambers

Main Nave

The Capilla del Santo Sepulcro or Chapel of the Holy Burial was built between 1759 and 1763. The murals here were begun in 1760 and center on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

Capilla del Santo Sepulcro


The Capilla de Soledad or Chapel of Solitude was built between 1740 and 1748. The main altar contains the Virgin of Sorrows weeping for the crucified Jesus.

The Virgin of Sorrows

An altar was prepared for the Day of the Dead.

Altar for Day of the Dead

Outside the sanctuary, several locals can be found hanging around looking for spare pesos (which allowed us to take their pictures).

To be continued…

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