The Bishopric of Manuel Fernandez de Santa Cruz (1667-1699)

Bishop Juan de Palafox’s project for an ideal Christian Republic, as discussed in Chapter 4, was fulfilled, in many ways, years after his death, during the Bishopric of Manuel Fernandez de Santa Cruz (tenure: 1677-1699). This notable bishop’s tenure was critical in shaping Puebla’s Baroque age. His tenure fulfilled Puebla’s transformation into a city adorned with an array of ecclesiastical and civic institutions embodying a corpus of architectural splendor. Fernandez de Santa Cruz advanced many of the cathedral’s key elements, particularly the Capilla del Ochavo or Octagonal Chapel, a receptacle of the cathedral’s most treasured artworks located on the cathedral’s southeast corner. Under Fernandez’s auspices, famed artist Cristobal de Villalpando

(1649-1714) painted the cathedral’s apse dome, a theater of heavenly Baroque fancy portraying the ascension of the Virgin Mary to the heavens.49 When Octavio Paz wrote his iconic work on the author-nun Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, an intimate friend of Bishop Fernandez de Santa Cruz, Paz described the bishop as having two passions in life: theology and nuns.50 Perhaps, for this reason, he was the patron of several feminine convents, among them the Santa Rosa and Santa Monica Convents.31 Curiously enough, the bishop was also a grand sponsor of the San Miguel del Milagro Shrine; he provided the complex with a hostel for its pilgrims, and he enriched the church’s interior decoration. In another parallel with Palafox, Fernandez de Santa Cruz promoted an active agenda of creating or strengthening public welfare institutions. Fie built the Orphanage of San Cristobal, and he invested heavily in improving the infrastructure of San Pedro Hospital.52 Fernandez de Santa Cruz’s Bishopric proved how, at the eighteenth-century threshold, Puebla’s architectural and artistic landscape was still shaped, significantly, by the powerful institution of the diocese.

The Palafoxiana library

The establishment of a library was part of the Tridentine Seminary’s grander educational project, destined for the students’ consultation and education. Surprisingly for the time, the library was open to the public too. In the library’s charter, drafted by Bishop Palafox, he specified how the principal reason that moved him to create the library was to provide students and the general public with a reading and studying space.53 In reality, the College of San Juan, in existence for some five decades before Palafox arrived in New Spain, possessed a modest library from its inception. However, with Palafox’s encouragement, the Palafoxiana project would develop over the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries into one of the most important libraries and one of the most relevant cultural projects in all of New Spain. Palafox first donated some 5,000 volumes to the library and then provided a dedicated locale for the collection.54

The library’s collection continued to grow through the book donations of successive bishops such as Manuel Fernandez de Santa Cruz (tenure: 1676- 1699) and Francisco Fabian у Fuero (tenure: 1764-1773).The latter provided the library with its elaborate, ornate, and elegant reading hall, graced by two levels of bookcases made of cedarwood, and an elaborate wooden altarpiece at the end of the hall gracefully covered in gold leaf (see Figure 5.13). Fabian у Fuero also managed to incorporate into the library the vast collections of the three Jesuit colleges that existed in the City of Puebla after the Order’s expulsion from New Spain in 1767.55

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