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09.04.2009

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Metropolitan Cathedral

Historical Centre / Images of the Historical Centre / Other attractions

Neighborhood: Historical Centre
Address:  Zocalo square
Metro: Zocalo
Open: Every day from 8:00 to 19:00 hrs.

 

The ultimate landmark of colonial architecture in the American continent, Mexico Citys Metropolitan Cathedral stands majestically in the capitals Square as the largest Cathedral in Latin America and one of the most emblematic Christian temples in the world.

The history of the Cathedral is also the history of Mexico in the time of the Viceroyalty, and a stone narrative of its diverse architectonical styles. Built across three centuries, we can recognize Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical elements which harmoniously come together to form a piece of great cultural and spatial richness, unique in its genre.

The first stone of the Cathedral was placed by Hernán Cortes in 1524 in an act of great symbolic significance, as it was placed at the crossing of the avenues which, from the four cardinal points, lead to the spiritual centre of the Aztec capital. It was built using the stones that had once been a part of the Templo Mayor of the Great Tenochtitlán.

In 1547 this temple was declared a Cathedral by the Holy See. Years later, the original building was demolished and the foundational stone of the new Cathedral was placed by the Archbishop Pedro Moya and Virrey Martín Enríquez. In 1623, after three decades of work in the interior, the construction of the Sacristy was concluded; a spectacular enclosure that holds many religious treasures and murals of two of the most outstanding painters in the New Spain, Juan Correa and Cristóbal de Villalpando. The rest of the interior was concluded forty-four years later, and the building was inaugurated on December 22nd 1667.

The exterior of the Cathedral wasnt finished until 1813 when, after centuries of work, the architect Manuel Tolsá was hired to design and finish the façades and bell towers. The three sculptures representing Hope, Faith and Charity of the main façade are attributed to him, as well as the transepts cupola and the bell-shaped tower crowns. 

This fascinating temple has a Latin Cross plan with three main doors that open out onto the citys Square, the middle of which is only used on special occasions. The tour is taken along an ambulatory that surrounds the choir and parish, around which converge 14 chapels, as well as the main altars.

One of the most outstanding elements of the Cathedrals interior is the choir, richly ornamented in baroque style, with two monumental organs and furniture brought from the Spanish Empires Asian colonies; of special interest are the choir stalls, from Macao, and the lectern, from the Philippines.

Another element which requires attention is the Kings”’ altarpiece and the Royal Chapel by architect Guillermo de Balbás; they are situated behind the main altar and showcase a baroque fantasy of golden columns which elegantly frame a set of paintings; the theme: kings and queens who were declared saints. Another remarkable altarpiece is the Altar of Forgiveness; located in the central nave across from the central doors entrance, its done in rich ironwork style and holds one of the most important objects of devotion in the temple: el Cristo del Veneno (the Christ of Poison) .

The Metropolitan Shrine, which serves as a parish for many celebrations, is located on the east side of the Cathedral, and though it probably has the best executed baroque façade in Ibero-America, its interior is contrastingly austere.

After several years of maintenance work due to the buildings gradual sinking, the Metropolitan Cathedral has recovered its original splendour. Of special importance is the recent restoration of the Altar of the Kings, that resulted from an agreement between Mexico and Spain. Mexico Citys Metropolitan Cathedral often holds choir recitals and concerts, and is the seat of the countrys Diocese. On certain dates, its possible to visit the bell towers and catacombs. Free entrance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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