The Belén – or Bethlehem – church is a modest structure. At first sight, your attention is drawn more to its neighbors, such as the Hidalgo market or la Alhóndiga, and it seems to pale a little alongside the school of Architecture. But it is a little-known fact that this school actually occupies the former hospice and monastery of the Bethlehemite Brothers, and the adjoining Jardín Reforma was its orchard.
Construction on this imposing complex of buildings, including the Belén church and even its graveyard was begun in 1727. The church, partly sponsored by the Count of Valenciana, Antonio de Obregón y Alcocer, was finished fifty years later, in 1777. The flowering of the Guanajuato in the eighteenth century caused the city to spread further, making it necessary to modify its streets and create spaces for ambitious civil and religious structures. The Bethlehemite buildings, sited on what was once a mining hacienda, are one such example.
The main structure of the Belén church – whose only tower was never finished – is built in the Churrigueresque style, while its interior contains examples of later artistic trends, most notably the pulpit and the main altarpiece with its fine metalwork and embroidery. Thanks to recent restoration work, it has been possible to preserve the interior décor of this house of worship.