P.za de la Constitución S/N, Centro Histórico de la Cdad. de México, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX
55 4165 4052
A customary action undertaken by the Spanish conquistadors once they were able to dominate the indigenous people of Mesoamerica was to destroy their temples, their plazas, their whole cities and build their own culture and places of worship on top of them, to add insult to injury it was most times done with the same stones of the ruins that were left behind. Mexico City’s most emblematic church, the Metropolitan Cathedral was one such temple of Christianity that was erected in such a fashion. It’s located just north of El Zócalo (just across the street, really) and it holds 5 centuries of Mexican art and architecture within its walls, the Spanish built it on top of an Aztec temple and made it the biggest, most extravagant, grandiose church in all of the Americas; it goes beyond saying that they wanted to prove a point to the natives, and wanted to woo them towards their new god by way of this majestic imposing church.
Hernán Cortés was the one who originally commissioned its construction, and it was designed by Martin de Sepúlveda and eventually built on top of the demolished Aztec temples between 1524 and 1532, this was a smaller church built in the Moorish style. Years later, Carlos V named it the cathedral of the capital of New Spain, yet it was deemed too small for the number of worshippers it was servicing at that time, so a new cathedral was commissioned that would be based on the one that was in Seville at the time. Due to the soft soil of what was not that long ago the lakebed of Texcoco, the corresponding authorities determined that limestone would eventually cause the cathedral to skink, so volcanic rock was chosen instead as it was resistant but lighter, it eventually was finished in 1667 after some delays caused by a great flood.
Inside the Metropolitan Cathedral, there are venerable pieces of artwork that any tourist visiting the city’s historic center will want to take a look at. There are magnificent paintings such as “The Assumption of the Virgin” (1689) by Juan Correa, and the “Woman of the Apocalypse” (1685) by Cristobal de Villalpando, as well as a magnificent sculpture by Jerónimo de Balbás called “The Altar of Kings” (1718). Despite the architect’s efforts of building it using volcanic rock, the Cathedral keeps sinking about 3 feet every year, and worse of all it sinks unevenly, which makes it especially difficult to save, there have been efforts to even out its foundation. The Cathedral can be easily accessed by the Metro station “Zócalo” from Línea 2 and is open every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. It’s a must-visit for anyone wandering around the historic center looking for art and history.
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