Religion in Oaxaca
is a serious matter from pilgrimages to rural churches to Easter
Colonial churches in Oaxaca have heavy buttresses
-- necessary as the land is prone to frequent earthquakes.
The Dominicans were the dominant force of the evangelization
process in Oaxaca. They built forty convents, most of which can
be seen in the Central
Valleys and the Mixteca.
Among frequently used symbols are the shell, signifying
Saint James or John.
Born into Spanish nobility in 1170, Dominic received
a religious education and enrolled as a priest in the Augustinian
order. An invitation to join his bishop on a missionary tour alerted
him to the presence of several active heresies operating in Southern
France. This ultimately led to his formation of the Order of Preachers
dedicated to working in the world, using preaching as a means of
attracting converts to the true faith.
Founded in 1215 and sanctioned by Pope Innocent III, this group
soon spread to northern Europe, Russia and North Africa.
Then, in response to a request for missionaries from Conquistador
Hernan Cortez, Spanish Dominicans travelled to Mexico in 1526 and
established churches and convents in southern areas. The one at
Santo Domingo in Oaxaca functioned from 1608 to 1857, and is said
to be one of the most beautiful examples of Dominican style architecture.