City, Temple, Stage

Eschatological Architecture and Liturgical Theatrics in New Spain
Jaime Lara

Description

Published by the University of Notre Dame Press

“This is a surprising detective story tracing the very complex paths and intersections of cultural, iconographical, and theological influences that formed the architecture and liturgical spaces of New Spain. I don’t know of another scholar who has commanded this kind of knowledge about the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim streams of influence and interaction which appeared in the chapels, temples, and theatrical ritual spaces of Mexico.” —David Carrasco, Harvard University

City, Temple, Stage is a new interpretation of the art, architecture, and liturgy created for the conversion of Aztecs and other native peoples of central Mexico by European Franciscan missionaries in the mid-sixteenth century. Jaime Lara contends that the design of missionary centers, or so-called “fortress monasteries,” can only be understood against the backdrop of the eschatological concerns of the age and the missionary techniques of the mendicant friars. Lara argues that these architectural constructions are quasi-theatrical sets for elaborate educational and liturgical events that acted as rehearsals for the last age of world history.

By analyzing the iconography associated with the Aztec religion and with Euro-Christian apocalyptic texts, Lara has been able to trace a consistent thread in the religious and liturgical imagination. The close parallels between the symbols and metaphors of Aztec religion and medieval Catholicism fostered an unusual synthesis between their different world visions. These visual, literary, and cultic metaphors survive in what we today call Mexican Catholicism.

Drawing on his expertise as a medievalist, Latin Americanist, and architectural and liturgical historian, Lara offers an astonishingly comprehensive and compelling examination of the churches and liturgies created by the Franciscans for new Aztec Christians. Lara’s fascinating narrative is supported by more than 230 images.

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About the Author

JAIME LARA is associate professor of Christian art and architecture and chair of the Program in Religion and the Arts at Yale University Divinity School and Yale Institute of Sacred Music.