Santo Domingo church and former convent are two of the top places to see in Oaxaca city. The church is one of the most magnificent examples of baroque architecture that you will see anywhere on your Mexico trip. The former convent adjoining the church now houses the Santo Domingo Cultural Center, which includes the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca, an ancient books library, a periodicals library, and an Ethnobotanical Garden in the area that was once occupied by the convent's orchards.
Santo Domingo church is one of the finest and most lavishly ornamented baroque churches in Mexico. Construction on the complex began in 1555, but it was not completed until more than one hundred years later. The façade dates from the early 17th century and is more sober in style than the extravagantly decorated interior. The ornate Rosary chapel was completed in 1731.
Much of the original art of Santo Domingo church was destroyed in the 19th century during the Reform War when the army took over the building, using the convent as headquarters and the church as a stable. By the end of the 19th century, the church was returned to the Dominicans, but the military didn't completely vacate the former convent until 1994, when a major restoration project was begun. The Santo Domingo Cultural Center was inaugurated in 1998.
The Museum of the Cultures of Oaxaca contains exhibits dedicated to the history, art and cultures of the region. Be sure to see the Treasures of Tomb 7 from Monte Alban, a discovery made in 1932 of a Mixtec burial that included finely crafted gold, silver, precious stones and intricately carved bone. This is the greatest treasure that has ever been found in Mesoamerica.
The Jardin Etnobotanico (Ethnobotanical Garden), located on the grounds of the Santo Domingo Cultural Center, grows a huge collection of living plants that showcase Oaxaca’s rich biodiversity. A strong emphasis is placed on the many uses that these plants have had throughout the history of the region. The garden may only be visited as part of a guided tour (offered daily in Spanish and several times a week in English).