April 12, 2017

Toluca's Cosmovitral:
Plants Under Stained Glass


How can I do justice to one of the most unique botanical gardens in the world in a simple blog post?

I can't. So I'll simply share a little introductory information, and a few photos.

To truly appreciate the Cosmovitral in Toluca, Mexico, you must see it. If you're ever in the Mexico City area for business or vacation, Toluca might be worth a side trip or a day trip--it's about 39 miles west-southwest of Mexico City.

building front

The Cosmovitral is a stained glass mural showcase and botanical garden. The original Art Nouveau building housed "16 de Septiembre Market"--constructed in the early 20th century and opened to celebrate the centennial of Mexico's independence.

In 1975, when the market was relocated, Toluca's first female mayor worked to transform the building into a space for art. The notable local artisan, Leopoldo Flores had the vision and led the construction of the stained glass murals. His theme: the universal dualities and antagonisms--struggles between life and death, good and evil, day and night, and creation and destruction.

The converted Cosmovitral art and botanical garden opened to the public in 1980. The place is rich in detail and history, but most of all, it offers visual eye-candy--unique in all the world, especially for plant-lovers and stained glass art enthusiasts.


Hombre Sol (The Sun Man) is the main focus of the work. The image represents mankind in harmony with the forces of creation, virtue, art, science, truth, beauty, wisdom, and other qualities. Hombre Sol greets visitors at the entryway.

sun man

When you're inside looking out, you get the dramatic fiery effect. Each year at the spring equinox, the sun aligns with this panel, and the community gathers to view it and to celebrate with classical music.

NA leaders

When the three leaders of North America (U.S. Pres. Barack Obama, Mexican Pres. Pena Nieto, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper) met in Toluca in 2014, they toured the Cosmovitral. A life-size poster commemorates the meeting.

septiembre market

The Septiembre Market was officially inaugurated in 1933.


Simple wrought iron structures remain, including classical window treatments.

birds of prey

Overlaid are the newer stained glass panels. This is one of my favorites--celebrating birds of prey. It's one of the simpler designs, but something about it speaks to me.

window and color

The more complex designs and their interplay with the plants are magical, too.

light effects

At certain points of day and in various seasons, light reflects magically onto the walkways and the plants.

Anthurium andraeanum

bird of paradise
Strelitzia reginae

foxtail ferns
Asparagus densiflorus

So many incredible plants to see, but they're almost overshadowed by the stained glass.


The ponds and all the life within therm are visually stunning in themselves, but again, your eye is drawn to the stained glass.


This simple bridge is strategically placed for dramatic effect with the stained glass and the surroundings.

plant rows

Row of herbs offer educational information on each species.


Hard to describe the section filled with succulents. It's very geometrical, but not unpleasant.

rock wall

This rock wall filled with mosses and moisture-loving plants is pretty special.

japanese garden tower

A Japanese garden tower: I know there's a story to this one, but I couldn't find it in my notes.


What a great setting for a quinceanera photo shoot!


Several plaques in the back share comments from historical figures about the Cosmovitral. I couldn't make out the one on the left, but the one on the right is the words of Jorge Jimenez Cantu, governor of the state of Mexico from 1975 to 1981. Roughly translated: The genius, the fantasy, the technician and the depth of emotion, are a small fiesta in Cosmovitral ...

Beyond that, my translation didn't make sense, but you get the idea.

Now I leave you with a wordless tour, including a few more scenes. Each glass panel has its own story and symbolism, and the plants sing in unison.

impatiens frame








sensory overload









stained glass plants

window framed




I hope you enjoyed the tour!


  1. All I can say is WOW. I love stained glass. To have so much meaningful themes sure makes a glass house more impressive.

    1. I know. I have a thing about stained glass, too. And when the glass distracts me from the plants, that's a sign the art is awe-inspiring. Each stained glass panel has its own story--too many stories to include here. It's a beautiful place!

  2. Wow! So beautiful!! I love these landscapes with stained glass skies :-)

    1. Yes, it's quite dramatic. As always, we didn't have enough time during our visit. I could have spent a couple of days there. I've never seen anything like it!

  3. Replies
    1. Yes, that word describes it well, although it exceeded my expectations when I saw it in person.

  4. What an incredible place - the stained glass is just exquisite! Must say that I loved the photo of you and Kylee with the Presidents and Prime Minister - that poster creates quite the photo op!

    1. Ha! Yes, the three leaders beckoned for photo ops, for sure! If you ever travel to the area, Margaret, you must see this place. Incredible.

  5. Hi Beth, I hadn't heard about this very special botanical garden! So thank you so much for posting about Cosmovitral. It certainly is absolutly unique and the stained glass panels are fascinating.
    Judging from your photo though, I find that they overshadow the plants. On the other hand the effect of the colorful light reflected on the pond, walkways, and plants is quite stunning. Looks like something that needs to be seen and experienced in person. I am so glad for you that you got to do exactly that.
    Warm regards,

    1. Hi Christina: I hadn't heard about it, either, until our tour company included it in the trip. Taking a side trip there as part of our trip was a no-brainer, although it was even more spectacular than I imagined. I thought I took too many photos, but now I think I could have spent much more time there trying to capture the "art" of the place. True, about the stained glass overshadowing the glass, yet the overall effect is exquisite.

  6. Wow! What an incredible place to visit--I've never heard of it, but so glad you gave us a peek into marvelous Cosmovitral. So glad you were able to see this and even happier that you shared it!

    1. Hi Tina: Yes, it was amazing! I might have to do a future post about the stained glass and the meaning behind each panel. Or maybe I need to go back to capture them from different angles. LOL.

  7. What a wonderful vacation! Those gardens are so unique and beautiful! I love the water loving garden, as well. It looks like velvet! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Yes, it was! The Cosmovitral was more impressive than I imagined it would be. :)

  8. Beyond amazing. How could we have never heard of this place?!

    1. I know: It makes me realize how many incredible sights there are to see around the world--little treasures that may not get the press they deserve. I would think this would be a good destination for any tour to the Mexico City area.

  9. I wish I could ... but thank you for letting me see it thru your eyes. Always willing to make a detour for stained glass.
    Our church is in the throes of adding three new windows.

    1. Yes, it's definitely worth a sidetrip. Not very far from Mexico City. Wow, that's exciting to get new stained glass at church!

  10. The gardens are so beautiful that I think I would find myself trying to block out the stained glass.

    1. Interesting thought. I found myself focusing on the stained glass, and then the plants, and then the structural elements, and then taking it all in as separate "rooms" in an artistic showcase. It's kind of overwhelming in just one visit. I really would like to go back!

  11. Thanks for sharing this special place with us, Beth.

    It's not often you can say this about something on the Internet, but ... "I've never seen anything quite like it!"

    1. You are welcome! It really is an awesome place. Definitely worth a side trip if you're ever in the area. I've never been to Mexico City, but now I can say I've been very near it...and had the joy of seeing this place!

  12. Wow, impressive! The stained glass really does overshadow the plants here, beautiful as they are, as one's eye is drawn to such gorgeous and bold art. What an amazing place to visit! I rather liked the desert section, as it looks so unusual with the plants placed so geometrically. The rainy mossy wall section was really pretty too.

    1. That's interesting that you say it. Others said they felt they would block out the glass to focus on the plants. It was quite overwhelming at first, and then I found myself going back and forth between noticing the detail, and then taking it all in as a grand, artistic showcase.

  13. Wow! Thanks so much for sharing! This is a must-see. Now and then we think about going back to Mexico City. If we do, we will definitely visit this place.

    1. You are welcome! Yes, it's definitely a great day trip destination if you're in the Mexico City area--especially for gardeners/plant enthusiasts.

  14. WOW WOW WOW - I never knew of this garden. So many thanks for your posting. Next time in Mexico City I will demand a visit there from me. Thanks for all the beautiful photos. Loved my visit to your blog today. Jack

    1. Hi Jack: Yes, it's definitely worth a side trip. Lucky you to visit Mexico City from time to time. Thanks for your kind comments.

  15. The light in there must be amazing! What a place.

    1. Yes, the light was fascinating, too. That's another thing: This place would be fun to visit at different times of day, in different types of weather, and in different seasons. The sunlight created interesting angles on the plants and the structures.

  16. How absolutely GLORIOUS! What a brilliant idea.
    I think the stained glass would very much distract me from the plants! That's apart from a few of the settings, such as the cacti, where there is a good balance.
    That's not a criticism, it's just I'd be all over the place going wow, wow, wow!
    Thanks so much for sharing :)

  17. What a unique idea and beautiful pics. Reminds me in some ways of The Domes in Milwaukee.


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