The Carmen of San Cristóbal in Las Casas, formerly served as a gateway to the Ciudad Real, and today it has been adopted as its identity symbol. It is an annex of the Carmen temple. Its initial function was to serve as a bell tower to the church. A gap in its lower part perhaps gave access to the convent, or served as a passage between two parts of the city; his image has become an important part of the city.
In the convent of the Incarnation of Conceptionist nuns, the only convent for religious in Ciudad Real, built in 1597, instruction was given on the feminine arts of the time. Its Construction was authorized by Felipe II by Cédula Real on November 30, 1595
It is considered “The most striking Colonial Building in the City” and “one of the most notable and unique Monuments in the New World”.
Erected in 1677 in the purest Mudejar style in Colonial times, it belonged to the Convent of La Encarnación. This building formerly served as a gateway to the Ciudad Real, and today it has been adopted as its identity symbol.
It is an annex of the Temple of Carmen, Its initial function was to serve as a bell tower to the Church. A vain in its upper central part gave access to the Convent.
This construction, unique in Mexico, is considered part of the Chiapas Mudejar collection due to its square plan of massive proportions, its ornamental applications in mortar and the octagonal wooden vault with an eight-pointed star, reminiscent of the stonework of Islamic art.
At the beginning of 1677, José Antonio de Torres, administrator of the Convent, asked the City Council of Ciudad Real for permission to build a bell tower, alleging that the convent needed a tower for its bells; in order to do it, he needed it to be on the street in Paso Real, which goes from the town square to the goal of that convent.
The nuns of the Encarnación convent decided to raise funds for the construction of the convent bell tower, but the only place where that building could be built was on the Paso Real. This important street goes from the Encarnación convent to the town square, so the convent administrator asked the San Cristóbal de las Casas City Council for permission to build the bell tower on the main street. After several negotiations, the City Council granted the request on the sole condition that the Paso Real not be obstructed.
The nuns made such an investment, because the tower served as access to the convent buildings on the other side of the street, so that the nuns could go from one side to the other without breaking the closing vow. The tower served as the church’s access to the ex-convent and as the church’s choir, on the second floor.
This is how the Arco del Carmen was built. The colossal building had three floors: at the top was the bell tower. The middle floor served as a corridor for the nuns to cross from one side to the other to the convent buildings, without breaking the closing vow. On the ground floor, the famous arch was built on the main street, so that people could continue to pass through it without obstructing their passage.
To the difficulties suffered during its construction – shortage of manpower and resources were added damages by floods and earthquakes. Renovated between 1753 and 1766, since 1869 the hospital, the asylum, the girls’ school and arts and crafts workshops, the Institute of Sciences and Arts, the barracks and a Masonic temple were established on the site . When the Conceptionist nuns left the city, the worship of the Incarnation Ministry ended, that of Our Lady of Carmen prevailed.
At the bottom, the main Arch served as the City Gate. On the second level, the nuns could access the convent temple by going down the choir and it served as a bell tower to the convent temple. Its bell tower, the El Carmen tower, is a distinctive sign of the city.
The Arco del Carmen symbolizes the door of adventure. Anyone who crossed under him would stay forever in San Cristóbal de las Casas. Legend has it that any traveler who walks through the Ciudad Real gate will stay there forever. The magic that the door possessed was very powerful. The majestic monument attracted all the travelers who were hanging around, making them fall in love with its beautiful architecture and bright colors.
With the passage of time, the Arco del Carmen, located on the edge of San Cristóbal de las Casas, became a benchmark for all the people who passed by. In a few years, this characteristic building became the main entrance and the door to the Ciudad Real.
Today the monument is protected and can no longer be passed under it.
The original construction of this temple dates from the 16th century. It is houses the Capilla del Carmen; This chapel is the one that caused the new name, which was granted to it at the beginning of the 20th century; Originally it was under the dedication of San Sebastián Mártir, to whom the temple was dedicated in 1578; Later it was changed to the Mystery of the Ubilla, when it was chosen by the monk church for the ecclesiastical council, with the approval of the “justice and regiment” of Ciudad Real.
Between 1753 and 1766, when on the initiative of Bishop Moctezuma a complete renovation and rebuilding of the convent was undertaken, some works must also have been carried out on the temple, since the cover of the transept arm has the date 1764 inscribed. It is considered that at that time built the Capilla del Carmen.
On the morning of March 23, 1993, a short circuit in the bookstore next to the temple caused a fire that spread to the Church and destroyed its interior, losing the coffered ceilings, altarpieces, paintings, sculptures and pieces of gold, silver and bronze. priceless works of art; Among them, an anonymous sculpture from the 16th century stands out, representing San Sebastián, considered the most perfect anatomical nude in Latin America.
Of the old convent complex of La Encarnación, the only thing that currently remains is the double-door temple, the tower and the Carmen square.
It was not only symbolic, but functional, since the Arco del Carmen allowed the nuns of the convent to have many liberties. It allowed them to cross the Paso Real to reach the convent dependencies without having to break their closing vow. Over time, it was recognized as “the most striking viceregal building in the city” thanks to its Mudejar beauty .
Furthermore, the Arco del Carmen was considered one of the most notable monuments in the New World, at the time. Now this door, bell tower and convent access has become one of the postcards of San Cristóbal de las Casas. It is an unmissable stop on your trip when visiting the most magical of the Magical Towns within Mexico.
In 1980 the ex-convent of La Encarnación, today the house of culture, was restored. The cloister is located in a square, exempt from the temple. The main facade is sober. Inside it preserves its original architectural party.
This building represents the last vestige of the Convent of the Incarnation of Ciudad Real , currently restored by FONATUR, since the world tourism summit was held here. Currently we can enjoy the cloister, with its central patio, and the convention center is housed in the back. Within its spaces it also has an epitite garden, and workshops for children and the elderly.