In the mid-16th century, a Dominican friar created a hermitage where San Jerónimo stands today. The monastery was initiated in the 1580s, but most construction came much later. In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, the church building was enlarged; the facade, the choir, the domes and the bell towers were added. Reflecting conditions in the earthquake-prone state of Oaxaca, the bases of the church towers are massive, and the bell towers are low. The facade is divided by strong horizontal cornices and topped by a fanciful pediment. Statues with a folk-like quality fill the simple arched niches. Traces of paint suggest that the entire facade was once painted in bright hues.
Over the last twenty years, Lic. Mireya Olvera has lead a team of artists, architects, stone masons, technicians, and local residents in the painstaking task of restoring the church to its former glory. They have utilized rigorous scientific technique and historical data to insure the accuracy of the project. Several funding sources (principally the Alfredo Harp Helu Foundation) have financed the work. One of the first projects completed was the restoration of the 18th century organ (1990-91, funded by the Pichiquequiti Foundation).
The interior of the church is filled with bright colored frescos and colonial altarpieces.