Saint Michael Archangel (San Miguel Arcangel), Ixmiquilpan, Hidalgo, 16th Century
Augustinian friars arrived in Ixmiquilpan in 1548 and they founded the monastery in 1550. Fray Andrés de Mata (also the architect of Actopan) completed the building in the early 1560s. The building is very similar in plan to that of Actopan, but on a smaller scale.
In 1960 a remarkable set of 16th century murals painted by the local indigenous group (the Otomís), was discovered under layers of yellow paint in the nave of the church. While the Otomís had converted readily to Christianity, the Chichimecas, their enemies to the north, continued hostilities against the mission until as late as 1569. The frescoes depict battles of Otomí warriors wearing pre-Conquest style battle garb (loin cloths, jaguar and coyote skins) and wielding traditional weapons (obsidian edged clubs or macanas) against mythological and fantastic creatures armed with bows and arrows (the preferred weapons of the Chichimecas).
Art historians have puzzled over why the Augustinian friars would have allowed the Otomís to paint such clearly pagan images on the walls of the church. It appears that the friars appropriated the dramatic indigenous scenes in order to help their converts understand the Christian struggle of good against evil.