The UNESCO-listed historic centre of the Mexican city of Queretaro, about 2 hours north of Mexico City, is a treasure house of New World baroque architecture, of which the chief secular jewel is the Casa de la Marquesa.
Built in the mid-18C as an aristocratic residence, it’s now run as an elegant boutique hotel. I didn’t stay there, but I went for a meal in the excellent restaurant.
I asked in the gift shop for a book about the edifice, thinking there might be a commemorative coffee table book of the kind that hotels in historic buildings often have privately printed. No such book exists, as it turns out. They did, however, give me a photocopied sheet that outlines the history of the building. I quote from it below, verbatim except for a few minor changes of punctuation and capitalization.
“One of the oldest and most beautiful buildings in the Queretaro City is the famous Casa de la Marquesa. In the year 1756, Don Francisco Antonio Alday, the Marquis de la Villa del Villar del Àguila, directed his executor, Don Juan Antonio de Urrutia y Arana to build this beautiful home. Don Juan Antonio de Urrutia y Arana entrusted its construction to Cornelio, an architect from and Queretaro and the leading expert in baroque style of the 18th century. Its purpose was to serve as the residence of the Marquis’s love.”
“The interior as well as the exterior of this small palace are noteworthy in every aspect. Its carved stonework, the intricate design and Moorish details of the living room and chapel, the delicacy and freshness of this beauty overwhelm the senses.”
“The legend tells that the Marquis fell in love with a nun of the Franciscan order of St. Clare. She wanted to be loyal to her vocation and she refused his advances. However, she asked him two favours: to build an aqueduct to bring water to Queretaro and to construct the most beautiful house in the city. This house has been restored meticulously even to the point of uncovering the original paintings.”
Queretaro does indeed have a magnificent 73-arch aqueduct dating from the mid-18th century, so there must be at least a kernel of truth to the legend.
The restaurant is excellent, though not cheap. My friends and I enjoyed a splendid lunch of Mexican favourites, presented in photogenic, high-end form. There was even a tasty house beer.
If you’d like to visit the Casa de la Marquesa, you can find it at Madero 41 in Queretaro’s historic centre. The hotel’s website is: http://www.HotelCasaDeLaMarquesa.com
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