The trompe l’oeil paintings found inside of San Agustin is just impressive and awe inspiring. However because of the height of the ceiling and the often unlighted interior especially if there are no masses, some wonderful details can often be missed. Take for example at the crossing of the transept and nave where a faux dome is painted, two doves (left) can be seen between two pillars.
The bell El D. Nombre de Jesus (The Most Sweet Name of Jesus – a reference to the Augustinian province) (left) inscribed with the words FECIT BENITVS REGIBVS, the latinized name of its caster, Benito de los Reyes, used to hang from the now demolished belfry. This bell is dated 1829 during the incumbency of the prior Fray Manuel Grijalbo. Three other names of Augustinian friars can be discerned but quite faintly.
The belfry can be accessed through a narrow but short passageway at the antecoro, the room just before the choirloft. This passageway is a spiral staircase of adobe with a balustrade at the upperhalf made of hardwood. The first level leads to the rooftop while the bells can be found at the second level. Note that in 1854, it was agreed in a meeting that this second level be added for aesthetic reasons.
The choirstalls (left) at the choirloft is one of the intriguing works at San Agustin. The detailed woodwork calls to mind the intricacies of the pulpit and the motifs found makes it all the more valuable. Just imagine, strapwork done in the Renaissance style combined with Oriental emblems that attests to the uniqueness of religious art in this part of the world.
The choirloft of San Agustin is another notable part of the church that should be seen and visited not only for a closer look of the trompe l’oeil and the organ but, more importantly, a peek of the original colors of the church that was fortunately preserved and the exquisite and very detailed carvings of, circa 17th century silleria or choirstalls and lectern (18th century).
The gran escalera or the main stairway is the access path connecting the ground and second floors and it is one part of the monastery complex that always awes. Maybe it is because of the impressive brick vault atop, said to have special acoustical characteristics, the solid and wide granite slabs and everything in it that gives one a feeling of being transported to some bygone era.
How the original ceiling paintings of the nave of San Agustin is not known, or I haven’t come across a document that details it, yet. Galende and Trota in their book San Agustin Art and History 1571 – 2000 however included a photo (left) of a portion of a corinthian capital in bright greens, yellows, reds and oranges that the authors wrote is reminiscent of baroque Mexico.
The cloister of San Agustin conforms to the design found in Europe as well as the Americas prevalent during the colonial period. The four corridors in the cloister have at each corner ornately carved baroque retablos with reliefs/paintings of saints believed to have been added in the 18th century. Here, processions as well as the friars used to pass and stop for prayers and rituals.
At the far end of the church interior is the presbitery where one can find the altar mayor or main altar. It is made of carara marble and was installed in 1934 which replaced the original made of wood.
The huge retablo just behind it catches the eye. Its top is crowned by the image of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove with Saint Augustin at the lower center dressed in white robes flanked by two angels. The grand niche contains the statue of St. Paul.