“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.
“This is a brilliant, thorough, and innovative contribution to the studies of Spanish American colonial architecture, throughout which the author shows great erudition and command of visual and literary sources.” — Hispanic American Historical Review
“. . . His discussion in City, Temple, Stage of the convento in the medieval European street-theater context, so richly detailed and beautifully illustrated in color with many images from contemporary manuscripts, is the most comprehensive yet written.” — College Art Association
“Jaime Lara’s central thesis in this well-researched and copiously illustrated volume is that the sixteenth-century mendicant architectural complexes of colonial Mexico embodied the friars’ eschatological and millennial ideas to an extent previously unrecognized. Lara interweaves these two topics more thoroughly than any previous scholar has done. . . . The volume is highly informative about Old World apocalyptic ideas and their execution in New Spain, and it makes a valuable addition to the literature on a colonial interchange that, although often examined, is still incompletely understood.” — American Historical Review
“Jaime Lara provides an immensely rich visual confirmation of much recent research on the Christianisation of Spanish America. Lara makes a . . . highly original contribution by giving due attention to what he calls the liturgical imagination of the mendicant friars, which he reconstructs with meticulous care not just from their daily reading, psalm-singing and meditation on the Scriptures, but from their intimate knowledge of St. Augustine—particularly of his endorsement of the Sibylline prophecies in The City of God—and other widely cited texts such as Prudentius’ Psychomachia and the writings of Joachim of Fiore. . . . A splendid book.” — Journal of Ecclesiastical History
“The most beautiful and complex study of 2004 was Jaime Lara’s City, Temple, Stage_. Incredibly versed in iconography and architecture and all the ramifications of the confluence of Aztec, Christian, Jewish and Muslim religion, Lara deals with—this is the subtitle—_Eschatological Architecture and Liturgical Theatrics in New Spain. Almost 240 color illustrations give the book a grandeur equal to the scholarship. Huge contributions are to be found here. . . . This is a treasure chest, intellectually exciting.” — Bibliotheque D’Humanisme et Renaissance
“Lara’s book draws upon an impressive range of biblical, early Christian, and medieval sources to demonstrate the powerful influence of Near Eastern eschatology, or the _science of last things _(41), on the friars’ program of evangelization, and the ways in which it coincided with indigenous beliefs. . . . this book is quite revolutionary. For while Lara is not the first scholar to trace many of the prototypes he cites for these forms, he is the first to insist so consistently and convincingly on their scriptural and medieval origins—a long-awaited foil. . . .” — Renaissance Quarterly
“This beautifully designed and lavishly illustrated book is the product of prodigious research combined with the love of a scholar for his subject. Jaime Lara . . . has carefully integrated the fields of iconography, history, theology, liturgy, architecture, anthropology, and cultural studies in to grand and layered historical narrative that takes the reader through the story of the conquest and religious conversation of the natives of central Mexico.” — Worship
“Lara’s book is rich with ideas and theoretical nuances that offer new challenges for a reinterpretation of the meaning of Spanish colonialism and its effects on native populations and vice versa. This work is highly recommended. . . .” — Colonial Latin American Historical Review
“. . . visually beautiful as well as scholarly important. It will be useful to historians and art historians of Latin America and enjoyed by general readers with an interest in the history and art of the region.” — History: Reviews of New Books
“. . . A most interesting and scholarly examination of the role of architecture and theatre as tools that the sixteenth century Spanish missionaries used to convert the Mesoamerican natives to Christianity. . . . beautifully designed and richly illustrated. . . . A superb demonstration of how the mendicant friars ‘changed the root metaphor and Christianized a continent.’.” — Catholic Library World
“Lara offers an absolutely fascinating iconographic study of the churches of early colonial Mexico; it is richly illustrated in color and documented in detail. Documented in detail with excellent notes and bibliography, this publication is rich in material of all sorts including Euro-Christian apocalyptic texts. Highly recommended.” — Choice
“City, Temple, Stage is Jaime Lara’s intense, complex study of the religious architecture of conversion in sixteenth-century New Spain. It is an attractive book, with glossy pages and designed as a square rather than a rectangle. . . Lara’s book is a powerful presentation of a host of compelling ideas about the origins of mission architecture, iconography, and liturgy as it was applied in New Spain and across the New World. . . He has made an immense contribution to our understanding of the missionization process. . .” — Sixteenth Century Journal
“Professor Lara has drawn on an impressive body of theological, literary, and artistic sources across time and places in search of the prototypes that may have guided the friars in the planning of the religious complex and the designing of its individual components: posas, open chapels, atrium, atrial crosses, etc.” — The Catholic Historical Review
“In this interdisciplinary study, Jaime Lara seeks to illuminate the sixteenth-century dialogue between friars and indigenous people that gave rise to spectacular theatrical performances, impressive architectural complexes, atrial crosses, and convento murals. . . His reflection on the spiritual and historical sources for Christian projects in New Spain forms the core, and real strength of this volume.” — The Americas
“In his carefully researched and copiously illustrated study of sixteenth-century monastic complexes, Jaime Lara lays out a different view of the mendicants’ architectural theory. He argues that the mendicants were steeped in apocalyptic thinking, their urban and architectural ambitions fueled by a belief that Christ’s glorious Second Coming was close at hand.” — Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians
“Lara’s approach stresses the lack of cultural homogeneity of both Indians and Europeans and analyzes, from an innovative interdisciplinary methodology, the differences, subtleties, and nuances in multivalent interpretations of the architecture of conversion.” — The Year’s Work in Modern Language Studies
“. . . An erudite exploration of the eschatological symbolism of the ecclesiastical architecture of sixteenth-century Mexico. This volume is both masterful in its handling of a wide range of multilingual resources and meticulous in its ample bibliography, numerous citations and careful cross-referencing. Readers interested in colonial Mexico will not only enjoy this volume’s attractive artwork, but also be intrigued by the way that the theological convictions of the Spanish missionaries were given dramatic architectural and liturgical expression in order to evangelize the indigenous peoples.” — Religious Studies Review