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Casa Montejo

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Calle 63, No. 506, Centro
Merida, Yucatán 97000 Mexico
+52 999 253 6732 http://www.casasdeculturabanamex.com/museocasamontejo/

Casa Montejo is on the south side of the Plaza Grande and dates from 1549.

The palace was built by Don Francisco de Montejo the Younger (El Mozo) and is an extremely rare example of civil construction in the Renaissance style known as Plateresque, although evidence of a 1914 modernization remains.

From the street can be seen its limestone facade, which is profusely sculpted facade and the oldest part of the structure. It is divided into two tiers which together illustrate the eclectic characteristics of the Plateresque, a highly decorative style of architectural design and ornament.

A detail of the grotesque carvings at Casa Montejo’s doorway. Photo: Colonial Mexico

Giant figures of helmeted Spanish warriors flank the entire upper level, their feet resting upon the heads of the vanquished, popularly thought to be Mayans, but more likely the heads of heretics in the European tradition, according to some scholars.

The doorway is outlined in Roman Renaissance fashion, with elegant fluted columns and pilasters, classical entablatures and coffered paneling. The inner panels are neatly carved with grotesques and enlivened with relief medallions enclosing sculpted heads thought to represent Montejo’s children. The busts above the doorway are believed to be portraits of El Mozo’s parents, Adelantado Montejo and Beatriz Álvarez de Herrera.

Above that is a frieze of horned cherubs and grotesque animal heads. Over the doorway a bowed figure wearing sheepskins, possibly representing Hercules, holds up the corbeled second floor balcony.

Inside, a museum contains a library, living room, bedroom and dining room, elegantly furnished in late 19th-century and early 20th-century style. Art exhibits are regularly scheduled in three modern viewing rooms.

In 1981, the National Bank of Mexico acquired the house and converted it into offices. Then, Grupo Banamex completed a three-year restoration in 2010 and opened the museum.

Don’t miss the shop, which includes books, catalogues and printed materials published by Fomento Cultural Banamex y Educación Financiera Banamex, as well as magnificent artisan pieces from the Great Masters of Folk Art program.

Admission is free. Its doors are open every Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Free guided tours for the general public are every Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m., 1 p.m and 5 p.m. and on Sundays at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

The shop is open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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