George Kubler & the Franciscan Mosques of 16th-Century New Spain
University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, USA
George Kubler blazed the trail of studying early colonial architecture in Mexico (New Spain). In his classic study of the topic, he examined form, function and historical precedent; but he did not say the last work. Kubler's well-known disinclination to recognize an "iconography of colonial New World architecture" may have prejudiced him against larger issues -- architectural, theological and even theatrical -- that have emerged since his 1948 two-volume publication. In this paper I critique and build on his study of one type of structure that he treated in Mexican Architecture of the Sixteenth Century, namely the open chapels initially designed by the friar Pedro de Gante that give the appearance of a mosque or a hypostyle hall. By examining the visual resources available to the friar-artist-architects, and by returning to the Islamic models, I show that they were thinking in more transcendent terms to link their buildings to a renowned prototype. While manifesting a broader ideology than Kubler ever admitted, the Franciscan mosques were also pragmatic spaces and served their liturgical and didactic functions very well. One of them, much modified, even continues in use today.