Morelia has some of the region’s most
beautiful architecture, excellent food and a rich
indigenous culture. The city is situated at an
elevation of 1,921 meters above sea level. The
Historic Downtown Area (Centro Histórico), a UNESCO
World Heritage Site, encompasses approximately 150
city blocks at the city center, roughly
corresponding to the urban area of the city at the
end of the eighteenth century. The Centro Histórico
contains over 1,000 historical buildings and sites.
Before the arrival of the
Spaniards, the region was inhabited by a people
known as the Pirindas, and the place was called "Guayangareo".
Morelia was officially founded on May 18, 1541, by
the first viceroy of New Spain, Antonio de Mendoza.
It was inhabited by Spanish noble families and by
Purepecha Indians brought from Pátzcuaro and
Tiripetio to serve the Spanish.
In 1545, the name was changed to
"Valladolid". Vasco de Quiroga, who always defended
the Indians from the Spaniards, wanted the title of
episcopal city to be granted to Pátzcuaro. In 1571,
six years after Vasco de Quiroga's death, King
Philip II upgraded Valladolid to that title. In
1580, Valladolid replaced Pátzcuaro as the capital
During the colonial period a
number of religious orders established themselves in
the city, allowing it to take an important place in
the history of art and culture in New Spain.
Important architectural sites from
the colonial period include the Catedral de Morelia,
the Aqueduct (built between 1785 and 1789 by Fray
Antonio de San Miguel), the Governor's Palace, the
Palacio Clavijero, and numerous churches, convents,
and houses. The Conservatorio de Música de las Rosas
of Morelia was the first music conservatory in the
The city is the birthplace of José
María Morelos (1765), after whom it was renamed on
September 12, 1828, and who along with Miguel
Hidalgo y Costilla began the War of Independence
from Spain in 1810. It was also the birthplace of
Agustín de Iturbide (1783), later Emperor of Mexico,
and Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez, who played a key role
in the instigation of the Independence movement.
Morelia is characterized by the
magnificence of its monuments which are mostly
colonial. The most remarkable buildings are the
baroque cathedral, started in the 1500s and finished
in 1744; the convent of San Francisco, built in
1513; the convent of San Agustín, founded in 1550;
the college and temple of La Compañia de Jesus,
started in 1580 and known as Palacio Clavijero; the
convent of El Carmen, constructed in 1597; the
convent of Santa Catarina that dates from the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Other important constructions are
the 1613 convent of La Merced, the college of Santa
Rosa María whose foundation was in 1743; the palace
of the Executive, its construction started in 1734
and finished in 1770; the eighteenth century palaces
of the Legislature and of the Judiciary; the
sixteenth century college Primitivo y Nacional de
San Nicolas de Hidalgo, the eighteenth century Museo
Michoacano; and the house where José María Morelos
was born, on Corregidora street, which is now used
as a museum, library and for cultural events.
The Casa de las Artesanías
features a large variety of high quality artisanal
works. There are several other notable historical
churches in town including the Templo de las Rosas
annex to the Conservatorio de las Rosas, which are
both examples of baroque architecture, and the
Templo de San Diego (also known as Santuario de
Guadalupe), built with an interpretation of the
Rococo style using indigenous colors and techniques.
The monumental aqueduct, built in
colonial days to bring water into town, was
functional through 1910. It is made up by more than
250 arches. Its construction started in 1787 and
finished in 1789.
The central city is built of
reddish sandstone, lending the city a unique
character among Mexico's many noteworthy colonial
cities and giving origin to the name Ciudad de las
Canteras Rosas ("city of pink stone") that is
sometimes used in reference to Morelia.