Guadalajara painter Jorge Monroy, working with a team of three other artists, is nearing completion of a huge mural gracing the newest building of the Antiguo Hospital Civil complex.
The painting features Friar Antonio Alcalde, the hospital’s founder, but, as in Monroy´s previous murals, offers the viewer much more than what at first meets the eye.
Monroy has been working on this project since August 2013 along with Ilse Taylor, Cristina Partida and Luis Eduardo Gonzalez, as well as art student Marcela Figueroa. The painting is 15 meters high and ten meters wide and situated in the middle of a giant spiral staircase offering visitors a different view of the work from every level.
The main focus of the mural is Friar Alcalde, who laid the first stone of the hospital in 1787 and coined the expression “La salud del pueblo es la suprema ley” (Public health is the supreme law). In the mural, Alcalde is shown holding a human skull in his right hand.
Monroy explains: “He was known in his day as the Friar of the Skull and there’s a delightful anecdote about how he got his name and how pure chance brought him to the new world.”
At the age of 61, Alcalde was the Abbot at the monastery of Valverde near Valladolid, Spain. Continues Monroy: “One day, the king of Spain happened to be out hunting in the area and his party ended up getting lost. Finally, late at night, they came upon the abbey, so they asked permission to sleep there. That was how the king met Friar Antonio. His majesty was impressed by the wisdom, simplicity and austerity of this humble monk. Also, it happened that in the room where the king was to sleep, there was nothing but a human skull. The following day, the king was back in his palace and the order of the day was to designate a bishop for Mexico. Immediately, the king said, ‘We will send the friar of the skull.’ He didn’t remember Alcalde’s name, but he did remember that skull.”