Entering the church of Valenciana, it’s hard to know where to look first! Its three richly embroidered altarpieces, particularly the main piece dedicated to Saint Cayetano, the expertly carved stonework and the pulpit with its striking ivory inlay are all suffused with the spirit of the Mexican Churrigueresque style, while the church’s sandstone facade is a beautiful and finely-worked example of the ornamentation in vogue when the city’s mining industry was at its prosperous height.
The Valenciana mine, under the successful direction of Don Antonio Obregón y Alcocer, was productive enough to pay for the church and more. Obregón y Alcocer was also the first Count of Valenciana and spared no expense or ornamentation that might enhance the church sitting majestically atop the mountain. Its construction is eloquent testament to the sheer wealth that the Valencia mine generated. Building on the church began in 1775, with financing from both the mineowners and collections from the devout miners. The work was overseen by architects Andrés de la Riva y Jorge Archundia and the church of San Cayetano, or the la Valencia, as it’s better known, opened its doors in 1788. And since that time it has been one the greatest sources of pride for the people of Guanajuato.
The design is a Latin cross with an octagonal cupola and some of the original furniture still survives.
Next to the church stands a monastery which was never actually occupied by any order. Eventually it was converted into a curate’s residence and was subsequently used college for classical languages, then an army barracks and then a warehouse. Finally, the building was taken over by the University of Guanajuato and it is now the university school of Philosophy and Literature.