Beholding the Sacred
Templo Expiatorio del Santísimo Sacramento
The Templo Expiatorio del Santísimo Sacramento, in Guadalajara, Jalisco, is one of the finest examples of Neo-Gothic architecture in Mexico. Italian architect, Adamo Boari, (who was also the architect of the Palacio de Bellas Artes and the Palacio de Correos de Mexico in Mexico City) provided the initial design and began the project in 1897. Completion of the church, seventy-five years later, fell on Mexican architect Ignacio Díaz Morales.
The façade of the Templo Expiatorio has Italian influences while French Gothic style predominantly influences the interior.
The church was constructed primarily of cut stone as it was done in the Middle Ages and does not rely on an infrastructure of steel or concrete.
The Templo brings together world-wide craftsmanship to make this a truly exquisite example of beauty and function to facilitate the Christian community’s call to sacred prayer and worship.
Each of the three principle tympana of the façade of the church features mosaics designed by Francisco Bencivenga and executed by the Vatican Mosaic Studios.
The west tympanum depicts Pope Pius X giving communion to two children. It was Pius X who extended the reception of communion to children who had reached the “age of reason.” He said, “Communion is the shortest and fastest way to heaven.” The church remembers him as the “Pope of the Eucharist.”
The central tympanum depicts the “Agnus Dei” of the Book of Revelation standing on top of the book with the seven seals.
The east tympanum depicts St. Tarcisius, a third-century Roman martyr who, according to a poem by Pope Damasus I, was carrying the Blessed Sacrament along the Appian Way to give communion to imprisoned Christians. He was apprehended, and beaten to death with stones and clubs, rather than allow the Blessed Sacrament to be turned over to those wishing to profane it.
French painter Maurice Rocher designed the stained-glass windows and brothers Jacques and Gerard Degusseau crafted them.
The bell tower features a German-made clock installed in 1969. The bell tower encases the twenty-five-bell carillon, which is playable via a keyboard in the choir loft. Small figures representing the twelve apostles march on a platform in the façade of the bell tower at certain hours of the day.
The tympanum above the three portals are of high relief marble and depict the prayer in the Garden of Olives, the Crucifixion, and the Descent from the Cross. They are the work of Italian Sculptor Vicente Guzmeri.
Side columns embellish the portals, and a gable embellishes the tympanum. A full-relief white-marble statue of Our Lady of Zapopan once crowned the gable of the central entrance.
The doors are made of granadilla wood carved by Jesús Gómez Velazco and are encrusted with bronze high-relies crafted by Benito Castañeda.
The interior of the church falls in line with classic gothic style. It’s height, and use of light create a light and airy atmosphere. Side aisles flank the high-vaulted nave. Tall stone columns lead to pointed arches to achieve height and grace. The “star” rib vaults provide the impression of height, grandeur, and elegance. Rose windows adorn the clerestory of the nave, and lancet windows decorate the aisle walls.
A crucifix and statue of the Sorrowful Mother greet visitors upon entering. The corpus was carved from a single piece of mesquite wood in Tepatitlán.
Tall lancet windows bring light into the sanctuary.
The elaborate gold-plated gothic-style reredos was made in Barcelona, Spain by Javier Corberó. Two icon panels flank the center niche. Three rows of four enamel icons, painted by Juan B. Castro, embellish the panels. The left panel depicts scenes from the Old Testament; the right from the life of Christ.
A large sunburst monstrance rises above the reredos. It spans several feet across and is immediately visible upon entering the church. A smaller monstrance fits within the center niche of the reredos.
The altar and ambo are each made from single pieces of solid marble and are the only elements that have a modern aesthetic but seem to fit well within the gothic style. An eagle with open wings sits on top of the ambo.
Life-size statues of Mary and Jesus flank the sanctuary. These, presumably from Spain, are simple yet elegant and dignified.
An octagonal spire, richly decorated with stained glass in vibrant blues and deep reds, rises from the crossing. It is the tallest element of the structure reaching a height of 211.61 feet.
The Stations of the Cross are the work of painter Alfonso de Lara Gallardo.
The Organ was installed in the 1990s and was created in Cremona, Italy by the Claudio Anselmi Tamburini. Its facade is also Gothic revival. It has 56 registers and 4134 pipes total.
The esplanade comes alive on the weekends. On Sundays, it becomes alive with music, dancing, street performers, and vendors. It is also a favorite place for gatherings and a desirable location for pictures.
Overall, this is one of my favorite churches and an architectural jewel. Despite its tumultuous history of problems during the seventy-five years of construction, the outcome is just stunning. It continues to inspire people to more profound prayer and is an icon for the city of Guadalajara.
Exploring the Sacred