San Bernadino de Siena, Xochimilco, Distrito Federal, 16th Century
In pre-Conquest Mexico, Xochimilco was the agricultural center that provided Tenochtitlan (the Aztec capital) with fresh fruits and vegetables. On his arrival, Cortes admired Xochimilco, but finding its inhabitants unwilling to surrender to his troops, he burned it to the ground. Three years later (1524), Fray Martin de Valencia, the leader of the original 12 Franciscan Friars in Mexico, returned to Xochimilco to start the spiritual conquest of its rebellious inhabitants.
Construction on the missionary complex of San Bernadino de Siena started in 1535 and was mostly complete by 1550. The north portal of the church demonstrates the original Plateresque design. After its collapse in 1585, the main facade was rebuilt in a more classical Renaissance style. The mudéjar ceiling that originally graced the church was replaced by a vault and dome. The magnificent main retablo remains the crown jewel. It is one of three great Renaissance retablos from the late 16th century to survive in Mexico.