This building is located at the corner of Árciga and Alcantarilla streets, one block south of the Basílica. It was founded in 1540 by don Vasco de Quiroga, who named it Saint Nicholas in honor of the patron saint of his native town, Madrigal de las Altas Torres. Don Vasco’s purpose in establishing this school was to create an educational center for Spanish priests, something lacking not only in his bishopric, but in all of New Spain.
It is said that its curriculum was so good, that when years later the Council of Trent ordered the construction of new seminaries to prepare priests, the organization of those study centers was a near-copy of what don Vasco had taught in his own school. It is said that this school is the oldest college in the Americas -although it operates currently with different goals and in a new location. When the episcopal see was transferred to Valladolid, the college transferred also, uniting its faculty and holdings with the college of San Miguel. Becoming one, both colleges continued operations until the institution was finally moved to the current University of San Nicolás de Hidalgo. Thus, the original name given by its creator has been restored and joined by that of the father of Mexican independence Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, who, as is well known, was both student and professor in the college.
The original building in Pátzcuaro has been transformed into the Museo de Artes Populares (folk art museum) and offers in its layout a good understanding of much of the architecture of Pátzcuaro. It’s arrangement not only meets the needs of such a museum but is very instructive to the visitor, in a most agreeable way.
This museum holds one of the largest and best collections of lacquerware from Uruapan, Quiroga and Pátzcuaro in which you can observe the richness and exquisite taste with which they are crafted. It is also possible to view a great variety of ceramics, burnished and glazed china, and many different handicrafts made from wood, textiles, wheat, tule (a local reed), quarried stone, cane dough, wax, silver, copper, tin and iron.
All these demonstrate the richness of the crafts found in the state of Michoacán. At the same time, one can admire the famous floor made of cow bones, which in the eighteenth century was used at the entrance of the kitchen as a typical building technique years ago. And there are a few prehispanic archaeological ruins discovered in the back court of the building, and an authentic “troje”, a typical building style used in the mountains of Michoacán. Don’t miss visiting this museum!