The most prominent feature of the city is its enormous aqueduct, consisting of seventy five arches, each twenty meters wide with a total extension of 1,280 meters and an average height of twenty three meters. It was built by the Marquis Juan Antonio de la Urrutia y Arana between 1726 and 1738 at the request of the nuns of the Santa Clara Convent to bring water to the residents of the city from La Cañada.
Most of the rest of Querétaro's notable sites are located in the historic center, which is pedestrian-friendly and filled with colonial architecture. The local government maintains this area well, with cleaning crews to keep the streets clean and regulating vendors so that they do not block streets and sidewalks. In the evening, the area fills with people strolling the plazas and walkways and frequenting the area's restaurants, cafes and food stands. One way to see this part of town is the Noche de Leyendas (Night of Legends), which is a hybrid between interactive theater and a recounting of history. A group of actors guide visitors through the streets of the city narrating stories about what has happened in these places. This event begins at the main plaza, the Plaza de Armas in the center of the city with a reenactment of the legend of Carambada. Then the show wanders the street all the while telling tales related to bandits, loves and myths. These tales demand audience participation providing lines and provoking debate.
In the center of downtown is the Church of San Francisco, finished at the beginning of the 18th century and from then on the most important in town, serving as the cathedral until the 20th century. It and the attached cloister is all that is left of a large complex that included several chapels and an orchard that extended for blocks to the east and south. On the facade, there is a depicting of Saint James fighting the Moors, cutting the head off of one. The main altar is Neoclassic, and replaced what reputedly was a masterpiece of Baroque design. This has happened frequently in the city; those Baroque altars not plundered over the course of Mexican history were replaced by newer designs. Older Baroque side altarpieces are still here, and are covered in gold leaf. Other notable pieces here include a large Baroque music stand and the seating of the choir section both done by architect Francisco Eduardo Tresguerras of Celaya in the 18th century. There are also sculptures done by Mariano Montenegro and Mariano Arce.
The church's cloister is now the Museo Regional (Regional Museum). Built between 1660 and 1698,(elcima) the monastery it houses was the first in the city, built by Franciscans to evangelize the native populations here. The architecture is representative of Franciscan style, with simple lines and decoration. The museum exhibits artifacts from the pre-Hispanic, colonial and post-Independence eras of this region's history. The Plaza de la Constitución and Jardin Zenea plaza (named after liberal governor Benito Zenea) were part of the atrium of the church and monastery. This area is crowded every night and all day on Sunday, when the municipal band plays dance music from the 1940s to the 1960s.
The Plaza de Independencia or Plaza de Armas is the oldest part of the city, and is filled with Indian laurel trees, surrounded by outdoor restaurants and colonial mansions. Streets here are made of cobblestone and have names such as La Calle de Bimbo and the Callejón del Ciego. In the middle of this plaza is a fountain that honors Juan Antonio de Urrutia y Arana, who built that large aqueduct to bring water to the city. Around the plaza is the Galeria Libertad (Libertad Gallery) and the Casa de Ecala (Ecala House), which is a baronial mansion from the 18th century with large balconies and wrought ironwork. However, the best-known structure on this plaza is the Palacio de la Corregiadora.
The Palacio de la Corregidora was originally called the Casas Reales y Cárceles (Royal Houses and Jails). Today it houses the government of the state of Querétaro. Its name comes from its most famous occupant, Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez, who was the wife of the mayor or corregidor of the city. Ortiz de Domínguez is a heroine of the Mexican War of Independence and the Conspiracy of 1810 that lead the to start of the War occurred here. Her final resting place is the Mausoleum of the Corregidora.
The Church and ex-monastery of San Felipe Neri was built between 1786 and 1805. It was opened and blessed by Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, who also officiated the first Mass. In 1921, this church was declared the Cathedral of Querétaro by Pope Benedict XV. The church is constructed of tezontle and has altarpieces of cantera stone. The facade shows the transition between Baroque and Neoclassical architecture, and is considered to be the last Baroque facade in the city. Inside the nave is sober, austere and completely Neoclassical. The old monastery complex now houses the Ministry of Urban Development and Public Works. It is more commonly referred to as the Palace of Conín.
The Church and ex-convent of Santa Rosa de Viterbo is attributed to Alarife Ignacio Maraiano de las Casas and financed by José Velasquez de Lorea, finished in 1752. The church has twin entrances, which was common with convent churches. The two arches are decorated with mocking faces put there by Casas to those who did not think he could manage the building of the institution. The outside is flanked by scroll-shaped flying buttresses, which only serve as decoration and are unique to Querétaro. The tower has a unique shape and is topped with a pyramid-shaped crest. There is an inner doorway decorated in Churrigueresque style and an image of Saint Rose. Inside, the most outstanding feature is the pulpit inlaid with ivory, nacre, turtle shell and silver, and its altarpieces are gold covered in Querétaro Baroque style. The entrance to the sacristy contains paintings of José Velazquez de Lore and Sor Ana María de San Francisco y Neve. The convent complex was later amplified by Juan Caballero y Osio. The nuns began to dedicate themselves to primary education and by 1727 it became the Royal College of Santa Rosa. The convent was closed in 1861 due to the Reform Laws and was subsequently used as a hospital for about 100 years. Today the convent portion is home to the Centro de Estudios de Diseño y Artes Graficas Mexico-Italiano.
The church and monastery of La Santa Cruz is located on Sangremal Hill, where the appearance of Saint James is said to have occurred at the founding of the city and the cross commemorating the event is kept. Both the church and the monastery are Franciscan, and in one of the few monasteries to be in operation in Mexico. This was also the site of the Colegio de la Propagación de la Fe, the first missionary school established in the Americas. From here, missionaries such as Junípero Serra set out on foot, as required by the Order, to establish missions as far away as Texas and California. During the early War of Independence, Miguel Domínguez, Querétaro's mayor and part of the 1810 Conspiracy was imprisoned here. The church has been completely restored and its main attraction is the pink stone cross that was placed on this hill in the 16th century. Its altarpieces are also of pink stone and are a mix of Baroque and Neoclassical. Tours are available here and feature how the aqueduct brought water here to cisterns, from which the residents of the city would fill their buckets. There is also a thorn tree said to have grown from the walking stick of Friar Antonio Margil de Jesús, and is considered miraculous as the thorns grow in the shape of a cross.
The Museo de Arte (Museum of Art) is located in the former monastery of San Agustin. The building is considered one of the major Baroque works of art in Mexico, built in the 18th century and is attributed to Ignacio Mariano de la Casa It has a facade of cantera stone in which an image of a crucified Christ is surrounded by grapevines. The niches around the main portal contain images of Saint Joseph, Our Lady of Sorrows, Saint Monica and others. Its cupola contains life-sized images of angels, but its bell tower was never finished. The monastery was occupied by Augustine friars starting in 1743 and is considered to be one of the finest Baroque monasteries in the Americas. Its fame as such comes from the decoration of the arches and columns that surround the inner courtyard. On the ground floor, there are faces with fierce expressions, while those on the upper floor have more serene expressions. Surrounding both sets of faces is are chains linking the images. The museum contains one of the most important collections of colonial-era art and is organized by painting style. Some European works are here but the focus is on the painters of New Spain, including some of the most famous. The museum also sponsors temporary exhibits, theatrical works, as well as literary, photography and musical events.
The Museo de la Ciudad (City Museum) is located in the former Royal Convent of Santa Clara. In the 18th century, sisters from of the Capuchin order moved from Mexico City to Querétaro to occupy this complex, which was built by the city for them. This was done to show the city's economic strength as well as secure its social position in New Spain. After the Reform Laws, this building had a number of uses, as a prison with Maximilian I as its most famous prisoner, a military barracks and offices. Today it is home to a cultural center. In 1997, the Museo de la Ciudad (Museum of the City), which belongs to the Instituto Queretano de la Cultura y las Artes (Querétaro Institute of Culture and the Arts) was moved to this building, and is mostly dedicated to contemporary art. In addition to the permanent collection, the museum sponsors temporary exhibitions of drawings, photographs, sculptures, etc. as well as recitals in dance, music and other arts. The museum has exchange programs with Sweden and has established the Children's Library of the Museum of the City. Its goal is to interest children in the arts through books, workshops and other activities. The Church of Santa Clara maintains its religious function. Inside are six Baroque altarpieces and a choir loft, all of which are covered in gold leaf. On the altarpieces sculptures and paintings of saints appear, as well as the faces of angels among the thickly textured ornamentation covering the altarpieces.
The Teatro de la Republica (Theatre of the Republic) was built between 1845 and 1852 an originally called Teatro Iturbide. In 1867, the court martial of Maximiliano I and his generals, Miguel Miramón and Tomás Mejía sentenced the three to death. The Constitution of 1917 was promulgated here. In 1922, the governor of Querétaro state changed the name to its current one in honor of the 1917 event. The theatre is primarily used for acts and ceremonies on the state, national and international levels, such as the swearing in of the state's governor.(elclma)
The city still contains a number of mansions from the colonial era, most of which have been converted into a number of uses. One of these is the La Casa de la Zacatecana (The Zacatecana House) on Independencia 51, which has been restored as a museum to show what many of these mansions were like. Associated with this house as well as others are stories about love, murder and retribution. Another of these houses is the La Casa de la Marquesa (Marquesa House), which was an opulent residence that now serves as a hotel. The courtyard is in the Mudéjar or Spanish Moorish style, with Moorish arches and pattered walls. This area serves as the hotel's lobby.
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