Cabañas Hospice in Guadalajara (World Heritage)

The old town of Guadalajara is dominated in the east by an imposing building with a neoclassical facade: the Hospicio Cabañas. The “House of Mercy” was opened as a poor, orphan and hospital in 1803 and is now a museum. At the beginning of the 1930s, the Mexican painter José Clemente Orozco immortalized himself here with his unique wall drawings in the style of muralism.

Cabañas Hospice in Guadalajara: Facts

Official title: Cabañas Hospice in Guadalajara
Cultural monument: Former orphanage with a neoclassical façade and now an exhibition venue, especially for the works of José Clemente Orozco, the most famous artist of the 20th century from Guadalajara and, alongside Diego Rivera, the best-known representative of Mexican, socially critical wall painting
Continent: America
Country: Mexico, Jalisco
Location: Guadalajara, northwest of Mexico City
Appointment: 1997
Meaning: a building for welfare that was unique for the time it was built

Cabañas Hospice in Guadalajara: History

1530 Conquistadors arrive in Tonalá, now part of Guadalajara
1531 first city foundation
1541 Relocation of the city to the Atemajac valley
1805 Founding of the Hospicio Cabañas as an orphanage, today Instituto Cultural
1845 Opening of the Hospicio Cabañas with 23 patios
1858 Residence of President Beníto Juárez in the city
1883-1949 José Clemente Orozco
1938-39 Painting “Man from Fire” by José Clemente Orozco in the main dome of the chapel

The man who came out of the fire

They are pictures full of melancholy and sadness, pictures of a world sinking into war and terror. Over fifty frescoes cover the walls and the ceiling of the chapel, the hall and the dome of the hospice. It was painted in the late 1030s by José Clemente Orozco from Guadalajara, who, together with Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros, formed the famous triumvirate of politically active wall painting.

Throughout the entire cycle of pictures of the hospice, according to internetsailors, Orozco addressed the cruel character of the Spanish conquest of the New World and Mexican history as a permanent tragedy and as the epitome of human suffering. The conquistadors appear as violent, soulless beasts. Their commander in chief, Hernán Cortés, who has an empty opening instead of a heart, is typified as a machine demon bursting with freezing cold who rises above a massacre scene in the gesture of the executioner. Even the horses of the conquistadors, some of which are depicted with two heads, are armored monsters that trample over the helpless and defenseless victims, the Indians, mercilessly with iron rods as joints and bones. In another fresco, apocalyptic horsemen hunt, half creatures and half machines, over the burning roofs of a city and sweep the unconscious people away with scythes and chain tails. In the depiction that follows, a shiny metallic wheel turns over the ruins of the Aztec Empire. Church princes and missionaries complicitly erect crosses with the conquerors next to mountains of the slain, while Christ, the tortured Man of Sorrows, smashed his cross in a final act of desperation as the most radical form of protest against omnipresent suffering. Blood-red colors on bodies, in the landscape and the horizon heighten the drama of the poignant scenes. In the depiction that follows, a shiny metallic wheel turns over the ruins of the Aztec Empire.

Only a few frescoes convey positive aspects of the conquista, such as the depiction of Bishop Cabañas, who blesses a group of women and children, or Franciscan monks who compassionately take on the cause of the Indians. Portraits of the Spanish poet Miguel Cervantes and the painter El Greco refer to humanistic traditions of the Old World.

The fresco “El hombre envuelto en llamas” (“The man from the fire”) in the large dome of the hospice is considered to be Orozco’s masterpiece. Old Mexican mythologies are combined here with the Christian idea of ​​salvation, the painful but also cleansing power of fire. Man was born out of fire, and through fire he will finally be freed from all impure and matter. The composition is given a haunting dynamic by the hard contrasts in which a flaming inferno and bizarre, demonic figures wind around the dome.

In order to allow the overwhelming scenario to have a better effect, visitors are given large mirrors at the entrance with which they can view the vault with the masterfully crafted scenes.

Already during the construction of the Cabañas Hospice, the stylish neoclassical building with its distinctive dome and the ancient Greek portal caused a sensation, because at the beginning of the 19th century buildings with similar architectural features were only known as stately and representative buildings. The fact that the client, Bishop Juan Ruíz de Cabañas, after whom the hospice is named, intended it to be used for welfare purposes and founded an orphanage in it, was more than extraordinary. In the meantime it also served as a barracks and a prison. Today the cultural center of Guadalajara is housed here with an undisputed highlight, the murals painted by Orozco.

Cabañas Hospice in Guadalajara