Under the main altar of the San Miguel Arcángel parish, the Parroquia, is a crypt that Emperor Maximilian of Habsburg described as “a tomb fit for kings.” He made the comment on a visit to the town of San Miguel el Grande on Sept. 14, 1864, on his way to celebrate the independence festivities in Dolores. The crypt’s construction, from the early 1800s, is attributed to architect Francisco Eduardo Tres Guerras.
Every year, the crypt is opened so that locals and tourists can visit it. Normally, on Nov.1 and 2 the crypt opens at 7 a.m. and closes during church services. This year, however, the parish has announced that the crypt doors will remain closed.
Who is buried in the crypt?
For over 250 years, the remains of several representatives and famous characters of San Miguel have resided in the crypt. One of these is Father Juan Manuel de Villegas, parish priest from 1736-1776. He was also a commissioner of the Holy Inquisition in San Miguel and signed the birth certificate of Ignacio Allende. Villegas was originally buried in the parish cemetery, but his remains were among those transferred to the crypt in 1842. His grave has no headstone.
Father Francisco de Uraga, who died in 1830, was parish priest at the outbreak of Mexico’s War of Independence. He was Allende’s co-conspirator and survived to see the birth of Mexico as an independent country.
The remains of Father Remigio González, who died in 1837, were also transferred to the crypt in 1842. He was chaplain of the Jesús Nazareno Sanctuary in Atotonilco, where he received Allende, Hidalgo, and the insurgent army on Sept. 16, 1810. On this occasion, one of the lay sisters who attended the shrine gifted the insurgents with an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Father Remigio also sculpted the Lord of the Column. Housed in Atotonilco, it is transported on foot by pilgrims to San Miguel every year in the days before Holy Week.
One of the most famous tombs in the crypt is that of former President Anastasio Bustamante, who at first fought against the insurgents, but later joined Agustín de Iturbide in the fight for Independence. Bustamante became President of Mexico in 1830, but was forced to leave office in 1833 following protests over the execution of Vicente Guerrero. Bustamente was president again from 1837-1839. Once retired, he came to live in San Miguel, where he died in 1853 in a house owned by the Sautto family, at calle San Francisco 38. He requested that his heart be removed upon his death, and deposited in the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City alongside the remains of Agustín de Iturbide. A Mexican flag is at the spot where his body is buried in the parish crypt.