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Hospicio Cabañas
Posted by: HoboSylvain | 2013-11-01 20:20:01 | Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico
Keywords: Building, Charity, UNESCO
The UNESCO also recognizes buildings that were a landmark to history or that by their functions played an important social role in their environment that contributed to change the society. The Hospicio is one of those buildings. In late 1700s, the were waves and waves of weather problems plaguing Guadalajara (droughts, floods and frosts), a decision was made to build a large building to host orphans and other people in need. The innovation of the architecture selected made history, in addition to its role.

Many years passed between the initial idea and the final realization of the building, due to funding issues, political and religious agendas and a war. But when it finally opened in 1829 it began playing its social role, with periods of use by the army. The building bears the name of the Bishop Cabañas who led the project from 1796 to his death in 1824, without seeing his vision finished.

The building is a very large rectangle (164 m x 145 m) in which you find 23 courts where the occupants of the rooms around each of them could enjoy the sun and take some fresh air for their health. Upon entering the hospicio, all orphans were officially inscribed in the state registry with the last name 'Cabañas' to honour the founder. The complex was home to not only orphans (who received a free education) but also to handicapped people who couldn't work and severely ill patients necessitating a long recovery.

Hospicio Cabañas made the list because of the great ingeniosity with which the architect Manuel Tolsá assembled the different parts while keeping everything on a single story throughout the structure (only the chapel is higher than the rest). The design is somewhat inspired by the Real Monasterio of El Escorial (Spain) and the Hotel of the Invalids found in Paris (France).

The chapel was the centre piece of the building, and it was used as such until 1922. But even at the end, it was just a regular decoration. Today, the chapel space isn't used for religious services anymore, but instead is a wonderful gallery of the creations of José Clemente Orozco (1883-1949) who painted all the walls and ceilings of the chapel. Orozco was the most famous painter in his generation in Mexico and specialized into murals. He painted all the history of Mexico since the arrival of the Spaniards in the chapel. The most important painting is the one inside the dome: El hombre de fuego (The Man of Fire). It is truly spectacular and the picture below doesn't do it justice. He worked on a span of two years (1938-1939) to complete this gigantic art project. Orozco also painted in a number of important buildings including the Palacio of the Gobierno.

Over the years, the hospicio housed thousands of people, with a peak at more than 500 at the same time in 1872. It would have been able to help a lot more people if it hadn't been used by the military on many occasions.

Today, the space mostly acts as a museum and it is used by the Cultural Institute Cabañas which sees to the protection and the promotion of the hospicio. It was added to the list of the UNESCO in 1997.

Related posts:
Historic fortified town of Campeche
Ouro Preto
Modern Ensemble of Pampulha
Isla de la plata


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