Although today the church of San Diego suffers by comparison with some of the more imposing examples of architecture in Guanajuato, the building has a fascinating history of its own that dates back to the very beginnings of the Spanish settlement and was originally some three times bigger than the remains we have today.
It was in 1663 that the church’s founders first came to the city. These were the “Barefoot Franciscans”, those members of the order dedicated to Saint Diego or Saint Peter of Alcántara. It was the first monastery to be built here and suffered some setbacks, initially with the king’s refusal to authorize its construction and the later when its monastic way of life came under threat. However, two separate events definitively affected its construction: the floods and the political changes wrought during the nineteenth century.
The church of San Diego had to be rebuilt as a consequence of the floods that afflicted the capital during the eighteenth century. In 1784, the walls were raised 6 whole meters, burying the original ground floor. Following this, the monastery was expropriated as a result of the Laws of Reform and converted into the Hotel Emporio, which was subsequently demolished to make way for the Juarez Theater we know and admire today. All that remains of the old church is three of the five chapels it once contained. Even so, there is much to see, including the underground museum where we can learn something of the old monastery.