Templo de San Antonio – Aguascalientes, Mexico - Atlas Obscura

Aguascalientes, Mexico

Templo de San Antonio

This ornate church designed by a self-taught architect is an eclectic masterpiece in the heart of Central Mexico.  

Located in the historic center of the city of Aguascalientes, Templo de San Antonio is one of the colonial city’s most prestigious historic monuments. It was designed by the famed self-taught architect Refugio Reyes Rivas, and there is no other church quite like it in Mexico.

The church was built between 1895 and 1908 in a pastiche of styles, including neoclassical, baroque, gothic, Arabic, and Russian. The wonderful yellow, green, and pink quarry stone facade seems to change color as the light changes at different times of the day. Other prominent features include the double-stained-glass Russian dome, three dazzling towers, and vaulted ceilings.

Even without formal training, Rivas built some of the most important structures in Aguascalientes, including The Temple of Guadalupe, the Hotel París (now Palacio Legislativo), the Municipal Palace of Calvillo, and the railway station. The autodidact worked as a railroad laborer in his early teenage years, and it was during that time that he learned the rudiments of engineering with North American technicians. By the late 19th century, Rivas had already designed his first independent works, including the clock tower of the Church of Guadalupe in Zacatecas and the Municipal Market.

After emigrating to Aguascalientes, Rivas became one of the city’s most influential architects. “He’s considered the author of the vernacular architectural features of the city, although in his time he suffered discrimination by academics of his specialty,” a spokesperson for the General Archive of the Cultural Institute of Aguascalientes told Atlas Obscura.

Locals even keep an urban legend about the architect. Here’s how the story goes: On a particularly beautiful day during the Mexican Revolution, Rivas was relaxing on a bench in the main square, enjoying the fresh air, and greeting passersby. A prominent Mexico City engineer named Pani passed by, raised his hat to Rivas, and said with a pompous air of mockery, “Have a good day, Engineer Without a Title.” Bothered, but still able to disguise his annoyance, Rivas replied sweetly: “I hope you have an even better day, Title Without an Engineer.”

Know Before You Go

The church is open to the public daily from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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