Jim and Nancy Swickard began collecting Mexican religious art and objects in 1971 when they lived in Rancho Santa Fe, California, where they restored a “Spanish territorial” home. The first religious art they ever purchased is the oil painting of the “Lady of Guadalupe” which you can view to your right. It was painted by a traveling Mexican artist in the late 1840s in Trinidad, Colorado. The Swickards purchased the painting in 1971 from Holy Trinity Catholic Church, during the time of Vatican II, when many religious objects were removed from churches.
This collection of ‘Mexican Retablos’ represent 50 years of collecting by a Mr. Ralph Gray of Patzquaro, Michoacan. They were sold to the Swickards prior to their moving to Mexico in 1989. These represent some of the finest retablos due to subject matter and condition, and they date to the mid-1800’s. They are paintings on tin, and some were done on copper, which could be purchased for a few Pesos in the 1800’s, in order to have an ‘altar’ in the home.
When the primary portion of Hacienda de los Santos was the Swickard family home from 1989 to 1999, this collection of retablos was displayed in their dining room, thus, ‘Casa de los Santos‘ and later, ‘Hacienda de los Santos‘.
The ‘Capilla de los Santos’ is a reproduction of the first mission of Northern Mexico, which is located in present day San Antonio, Texas. Using blueprints and information from the U.S. Library of Congress, the Swickards were able to faithfully reproduce the ‘San Francisco de Espada’ Church which is part of the U.S. National Park system near the Alamo. The original church was constructed in the late 1600’s and then after being destroyed by indigenous groups was rebuilt on the present site in the 1740’s. The construction techniques for the ‘Capilla de los Santos’ were nearly identical to those used for the original ‘San Francisco de Espada’ church built by the Jesuits in the 18th century.
The Baroque altar was designed and built by Mexico’s famous artist, Mr. Augustin Parra of Tlaquepaque, Jalisco. Sr. Parra has been the ‘carver’ to the last two Pope’s in the Vatican and he created both of the baroque style chairs which they use for public events.
The bells were hand cast and created by the 4th generation Mexican bell making family of Mr. David Arteaga Huesca of Guadalajara.
The Stations of the Cross were all hand-painted by Jamie Alcantar Swickard’s husband, Ramon Alcantar Hurtado, on reproduction casts from the 1800’s. These were found in St. Louis, Missouri by the Swickards.
The centerpiece of this museum display is a Rosary which was owned by Nancy Snell Swickard’s great-grandfather, William Snell. He carried it aboard the sailing ship which took him from Ireland to the United States of America in the 1800’s.
The stone flooring is from Jalisco and the walls are of locally handmade brick and exterior of stone. The church doors are from Spain and the antique Holy Water fonts are of Spanish Colonial origin. The roof structure is covered with ceramic tile and is used for water harvesting with a cistern under the exterior patio with a capacity in excess of 100,000 liters.
The outdoor amphitheater is used for live performances and is available for other uses as well for up to 400 persons. The chapel can accommodate up to 110 people for weddings and other events.
It is the hope of the Swickard family that visitors to ‘Capilla de los Santos’ will be an inspiration to people of all Faiths. Jim, Nancy, Jamie & Jodi Swickard dedicate this edifice to God, from whom all blessings flow, for as long as this building stands.