Declared a national monument in 1933, the monastery of San Agustín was built between 1539 and 1580 with most of the work being done after 1550. The walls are of rubble-stone construction and covered in plaster, topped by battlements, and the overall appearance is that of fortress. The crown of battlements, the single bell tower, the open chapel and the Plateresque facade identify the complex as a classic 16th century religious construction.
The fortress appearance of complexes of this time were not literally for protection but rather served to dominate the landscape much as mediaeval castles in Europe did. In areas where there are carefully fitted stones, these stones have been carved.
The complex is fronted by a large square atrium, and a courtyard before that, the two of which are today separated by a road The most important feature of this atrium area is the 7 ft 10 in high stone cross, which is considered to be an important expression of “tequitqui” or Christian art executed by Indian craftsmen from the very early colonial period. The cross was mostly likely erected between the time that the Franciscans occupied the site and before the architectural sculptures of the current complex.
Photo Credit: Mikael