Santuario de Jesús Nazareno de Atotonilco, Guanajuato
The Sanctuary of Atotonilco it’s a church complex and a World Heritage Site, designated along with nearby San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico. The complex was built in the 18th century by Father Luis Felipe Neri de Alfaro, who, according to tradition, was called upon by a vision of Jesus with a crown of thorns on his head and carrying a cross. The main feature of the complex is the rich Mexican Baroque mural work that adorns the main nave and chapels. This was chiefly the work of Antonio Martínez de Pocasangre over a period of thirty years. The mural work has led the complex to be dubbed the “Sistine Chapel of Mexico.” The complex remains a place of worship and penance to this day, attracting as many as 5,000 visitors every week.
The Sanctuary, officially called the “Santuario de Dios y de la Patria” (Sanctuary of God and Country), but is better known as the Sanctuary of Jesús Nazareno de Atotonilco. It is located in the small, rural community of Atotonilco, which had a population in 2005 of 597. Today, this community is formally known as the Santuario de Atotonilco and is a World Heritage Site (2008) along with the historic center of San Miguel de Allende.
Atotonilco is located fourteen km outside the town of San Miguel de Allende in an area that is a combination of dry grassland and desert studded with thistles, sweet acacia and mesquite trees. The appearance of the landscape has been compared to that of Jerusalem, which gives believers a connection to the Holy Land. The area also has a large number of thermal and fresh water springs. When the sanctuary was built, there were 27 fresh water springs to support gardens around the complex. Today, thermal waters still rise up from the ground only one km from the sanctuary, and another spring at the community entrance has been covered by an artificial cave and is used as a spa called Balneario La Gruta.