The severe grey quarrystone facade of Puebla’s Templo de Santo Domingo gives no clue to the opulence within. Upon entering you’ll find that the church is a masterpiece of baroque architecture and decoration. The grandiose altarpiece of the main altar, the spectacular onyx pulpit, and the sumptuous plasterwork and gold leaf contribute to the extravagant decor that characterizes Mexican baroque style. The Capilla del Rosario (Rosary Chapel), on the south side of the church’s main altar, is the most magnificent aspect of this church’s interior.
Santo Domingo church dates from the late 16th century, but the Rosary Chapel was added later; it was built between 1650 and 1690. This is the first chapel in Mexico dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary, to whom the Dominicans had great devotion. Tradition says that the Virgin Mary gave the rosary to Saint Dominic, the founder of the Dominican order. Dominican friar Juan de Cuenca conceived the Rosary Chapel as a way of showing the Dominican order’s devotion to Our Lady of the Rosary, but also as a didactic tool in the evangelization process.
Ornate sculptures, masterful paintings and extravagant gold leaf cover every inch of the walls and ceiling of the Rosary Chapel, creating a dazzling effect. The chapel is sometimes referred to as “the golden house” because of the lavish use of gold leaf. Windows around the upper level of the chapel allow sunlight to enter, bathing the space in exquisite natural light which seems to make the gold glow. Each of the images in the chapel is significant and relate to the Virgin Mary, the life of Jesus, or the Dominican order. The tabernacle at the center of the chapel contains an image of Our Lady of the Rosary surrounded by marble columns; the second level holds an image of Saint Dominic, and the archangel Saint Gabriel perches at the top. This chapel is undoubtedly one of the finest examples of baroque art in Mexico.