Receipt: June 30, 2022
Acceptance: August 24, 2022
Neogótico en Jalisco. Guía básica para la apreciación del entorno cultural edificado
Martín Checa-Artasu2021 ESARQ/Arquitónica, col. Corrientes Arquitectónicas, Guadalajara, 207 pp.
The book Neogótico en Jalisco. Guía básica para la apreciación del entorno cultural edificado by Martín Checa-Artasu, presents an interesting investigation of the historical development, typologies and geographic distribution of neo-Gothic architecture in the Mexican state of Jalisco, as a cultural phenomenon of adaptation and reinterpretation on a regional scale of a global architectural trend. To address the subject, the author adopts an interdisciplinary perspective in which time and the territorial diffusion of ideas about the design and symbolism of the neo-Gothic architecture in the state of Jalisco are considered as a cultural phenomenon of adaptation and reinterpretation of a global architectural trend. gothic revival are central when interpreting the current panorama of Jalisco's neo-Gothic architecture built between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.
Like few other works on this topic, Martín Checa-Artasu's1 is anchored in a rigorous investigation of historical, documentary, oral and bibliographic sources that are complemented by an exhaustive photographic record of the examples presented in the different chapters of the book. In this sense, it is a pioneering publication that contributes to the study of a type of cultural heritage scarcely analyzed from the point of view of academic research, not only in this region of western Mexico, but in the country in general.
The first section of the book is entitled "Background and Characteristics". In its first section, devoted to neo-Gothic from a global perspective, the author describes the origins of Gothic historicism and its application in architectural design during the late eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth century in northwestern Europe (Clark, 1995). In its early days, neo-Gothic is a romantic reading that exalts the medieval past and the mysticism of Gothic forms in both architectural and ornamental design. It also emerged as a true stylistic alternative to the neoclassicism that had dominated architectural design throughout the second half of the eighteenth century. It is in this context of interpretative twists on history when the main ideologists of the so-called Gothic Revival lay the foundations for the expansion of an architectural culture that would take on global tints during the rest of the nineteenth century (Yorke, 2017). Among these pioneers, the British Thomas Rickman, Augustus Pugin and John Ruskin, as well as the French Eugène Viollet-Le-Duc (Rickman, 1848; Viollet-Le-Duc, 1863; Pugin and Wilson, 1921), stand out for the relevance of their theoretical works, ornamental design and construction projects.
The first section of the book is entitled "Background and Characteristics". In its first section, devoted to neo-Gothic from a worldwide perspective, the author describes the origins of Gothic historicism and its application in architectural design during the late xviii century and the first half of the xixth century in northwestern Europe (Clark, 1995). At its dawn, neo-Gothic is a romantic reading that exalts the medieval past and the mysticism of Gothic forms in both architectural and ornamental design. It also emerged as a true stylistic alternative to the neoclassicism that had dominated architectural design throughout the second half of the eighteenth century. It is in that context of interpretative turns on history when the main ideologists of the so-called gothic revival lay the foundations for the expansion of an architectural culture that would take on global tints during the rest of the xixth century (Yorke, 2017). Among these pioneers, the British Thomas Rickman, Augustus Pugin and John Ruskin, as well as the French Eugène Viollet-Le-Duc (Rickman, 1848; Viollet-Le-Duc, 1863; Pugin and Wilson, 1921), stand out for the relevance of their theoretical works, ornamental design and constructive projects.
It is from this first development in England and France that neo-Gothic architecture finds different ways of transmission to the rest of the Anglo-Saxon world on the east coast of the United States, Canada and the overseas imperial territories in Oceania. In these regions of the world, its application manifested itself mainly in the construction of cathedrals, universities and all types of public buildings.
In this same section, the author describes the entry routes and manifestations of neo-Gothic architecture in Latin America during the second half of the 19th century. This is one of the most recurrent in the construction of monumental Catholic temples as urban landmarks in different cities of the region. According to the author, the construction of these great cathedrals and basilicas was the expression of a series of symbolisms that raised the figure of the Catholic Church, either to legitimize its power during the political process of consolidation of the young nation-states, or to recover its social visibility at the end of the liberal affronts that dominated the region during the second half of the 19th century. In any case, the result of these large-scale processes was the construction of grandiloquent temples of neo-Gothic architecture such as the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in La Plata or the Basilica of Our Lady of Luján, both in Argentina; or the Basilica of the Voto Nacional in Quito, Ecuador, just to name a few examples.
Continuing with the theme, the author develops a new section where the scale changes to stick to the Mexican national scope and focuses his analysis on two main aspects: the first is an innovative and interesting reading about neo-Gothic architecture in quantitative terms that, although descriptive, fulfills its purpose by offering a synthetic panorama on, for example, the number of cases of neo-Gothic architecture registered in a national census of his own elaboration, construction periods, constructive typologies or agents involved in the works. The quantitative overview is presented in detail through a series of graphs, timelines and percentage descriptions that offer a much more objective reading of the neo-Gothic phenomenon on a national scale. This presentation is rounded off by a cartographic representation of the geographical distribution of the census of neo-Gothic architecture at the national level.
The second part of this section, focused on Mexico, describes the forms that neo-Gothic architecture took in the country, as well as the different ways in which it entered, spread and was interpreted regionally or locally. Among these routes, the transfer of scholars, professors and intellectuals of architecture and design that took place between different Mexican and European academies beginning in the second half of the nineteenth century stands out. On the other hand, the role of construction agents stands out, such as foreign architects and engineers who for different reasons immigrated to fin-de-siecle Mexico, contributing the constructive spirit and experience of European neo-Gothic applied to new buildings in the cities and towns of the country. Even more important in the development of this type of architecture were agents such as the master builders, master builders, parish priests and local elites who showed their predilection for the use and reinterpretation of the Gothic style in the construction of grandiloquent temples, chapels, palaces and funerary monuments. The latter was, in many cases, the main channel for the diffusion of the neo-Gothic architectural design culture in the country.
This section concludes with the section on a regional scale in which the author develops the specific case of Jalisco. The first part shows a quantitative-descriptive panorama and the geographic distribution of this architecture throughout Jalisco. Later, the author describes a series of typologies that allow us to understand the different forms that neo-Gothic architecture adopted in the region in a time span that extended between the second half of the 20th century and the 19th century and the 1930s. This typological series is made up of five forms of neo-Gothic architecture of varied nature that, in turn, explain to a great extent the way in which this historicism penetrated the Jalisco region. The first of these is the Catholic parish churches, completed after several years of construction. These are mostly buildings with a Latin cross plan and a single nave, located mostly in urban environments of small dimensions or in towns closely linked to the rural environment, where the neo-Gothic temple contrasts spatially and visually due to its dimensions and its pointed forms. Among these temples are the church of Santa María de Guadalupe, in the municipality of Degollado, or the temple of Señor de la Misericordia in Jalpa de Cánovas in Guanajuato.
A second typology is that of the large temples that have remained unfinished to the present day due to the monumentality of their works, the lack of resources and the political conflicts in which the Church and the Mexican State were immersed during the first decades of the 20th century. They are temples of one or three naves, with a Latin cross plan, with one or two towers of great height, dome and ambulatory. This type of construction is reminiscent of the great European neo-Gothic cathedrals and those of the great cities of the East Coast of the United States. Two emblematic cases of this typology are the monumental temples of San José Obrero, in Arandas, and the Expiatorio del Santísimo Sacramento, in Guadalajara.
A third typology is that of those temples that already existed, many of them built during the 18th century or even earlier with styles such as neoclassical or baroque, and on which renovations or adaptations were made during the period of the neo-Gothic heyday. These operations were carried out towards the end of the 19th century o during the first decades of the 20th century. The result was eclectic buildings in elements such as façades, towers, bell towers or interior decorations in naves, chapels, presbyteries, etc. In this typology it is worth mentioning, for example, the case of the façade of the temple of the Sacred Heart, in Tecolotlán; the tower and the quarry façade of the temple of Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, in Ayotlán; or the façade of the Sanctuary of Nuestra Señora del Refugio, in Ojuelos de Jalisco, originally built in neoclassical style during the 18th century.
A fourth typology proposed by the author for neo-Gothic architecture in Jalisco corresponds to towers and bell towers. This is a type of construction that was very common in the region since the middle of the 19th century and that had a repair function, either to finish the work of half-built temples or to rebuild damaged or deteriorated parts for different reasons. A paradigmatic example of this typology, which served as inspiration for other temples, was the construction of the neo-Gothic towers of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Guadalajara, a project by architect Manuel Gómez Ibarra, carried out in a pioneering manner between 1851 and 1854. Other cases such as the tower of the temple of the Immaculate Conception of Sayula or the tower with ogee arches of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Defense, in Juanacatlan, also stand out.
The fifth typology refers precisely to decorations and ornamentations: altarpieces and furnishings inside the temples that were rehabilitated, recovered or renovated. In this typology, describes Checa-Artasu, there are numerous examples of beautifully crafted projects that materialized from the last decades of the 19th century onwards.
In the sixth typology, the author moves away from religious architecture and takes us towards civil architecture, where private houses in cities and haciendas located in agricultural areas represent the largest number of examples of this type. Finally, the last typology proposed is that of the neo-Gothic architecture that can be found in the cemeteries and cemeteries of Jalisco.
At this point, the author of Neo-Gothic in Jalisco presents the second major section of the book entitled "Singular Works". This section describes the historical details of what Martín Checa-Artasu has considered to be the most relevant cases of his study and which in some way are representative of all the typologies described above for the state. The section on specific cases stands out for its in-depth bibliographical review, but above all for the research of first-hand historical sources, as well as for the rescue of oral accounts that give an account of the constructive history of all the examples presented.
For the reader interested in the details of a particular case dealt with in this section, the index of the "Singular works" is described:
In short, the work under review has the virtue of being an interdisciplinary study that moves between the history of architecture and the geography of heritage, without neglecting the author's marked interest in describing and explaining the different forms adopted by the culture of design and construction of the gothic revival the world, in this case, focusing on the regional scale, in the state of Jalisco.
From the point of view of the state of the art on the subject, this is an innovative study for two reasons: the first is that in the national panorama, studies on historicist architecture of the medieval type are scarce and rather focus on the morphology of the buildings, almost always leaving aside historical research. In this sense, Checa-Artasu's study is based on a large amount of documentary sources and statistical information. The second is that there is a methodological innovation in that the way of approaching this architectural historicism manages to skillfully bring together the geographical, historical, cartographic and statistical perspective.
Beyond the work described above, it must be said that this type of architecture constitutes a heritage that extends throughout the Mexican territory, although it has been little valued and even less studied, so it continues to be a pending task both for the institutions in charge of heritage management and for scholars on the subject. It is, in any case, a cultural legacy of the 19th century with many peculiarities and edges to be discovered.
Clark, Kenneth (1995). The Gothic Revival: An Essay in the History of Taste. Londres: John Murray.
Pugin, Augustus-Charles y Edward Wilson (1921). Specimens of Gothic: Selected from Various Ancient Edifices in England, vol. i. Londres: Architectural Library.
Rickman, Thomas (1848). An Attempt to Discriminate the Styles of English Architecture. From the Conquest to the Reformation. Londres: John Henry Parker.
Viollet-le Duc, Eugène (1863). Entretiens sur l’architecture. París: Morel.
Yorke, Trevor (2017). Gothic Revival Architecture. Londres: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Francisco Javier Navarro Jiménez holds a degree in Human Geography and a master's degree in International History, currently a doctoral candidate at the Universidad Michoacana. He is a professor of Geography, Cartography and Historical Geography at the Dr. José María Luis Mora Research Institute. He has specialized in urban geography, urban history, historicist architecture and research of historical sources for the study of cities. His latest publications are "Las aguas de Chapultepec: historia, proyectos de aprovechamiento y arquitectura, 1888-1952", Bitácora Arquitectura Magazine (unam, 2022); author of several chapters in the books Architects and artists in the Italian diaspora in Latin America (Rome, 2021); Adamo Boari (1863-1928). Architect between America and Europe (Rome, 2020); and Italians in Mexico. Architects, engineers and artists between the centuries xix and xx (Rome, 2019).