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Teotihuacan Mexico

Date Visited



Mexico City

Metropolitan Cathedral



Constructed on the site of the Aztec Templo Mayor following their defeat by the Spanish in the 16th-century.  The Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City took nearly 250 years to construct and contains examples of many different architectural styles and some beautiful and elaborate altars.


Following the conquest of the Aztec Empire by the Spanish in 1521, a church was built on the site of the Templo Mayor, which was the main temple in the sacred precinct of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Mexica people who ruled the Aztec Empire.

In 1544, the ecclesiastical authorities had ordered the construction of a new and impressive cathedral. The cathedral was built in sections from 1573 to 1813 around the original church eventually replacing it entirely.

Due to the fact that it took nearly 250 years to build, the design incorporated the integration of a number of architectural styles, including Gothic, Baroque, Churrigueresque, and Neoclassical as each was to become popular.   It also resulted in the cathedral incorporating different styles of ornaments, paintings, sculptures and furniture in its interior. 

Constructed facing south the cathedral is approximately 59 metres (194 ft) wide by 128 metres (420 ft) long, with a height of 67 metres (220 ft) to the top of the bell towers, of which it has two. The east bell tower contains 18 bells, while the west one has seven


The cathedral has four facades and three main portals, these are flanked with columns and statues.  

The central part of the main façade was completed In 1675. It includes the main portal, which is facing south.  In the centre of the façade are statues of St Peter and St Paul standing between the columns of the doorway. In the centre of this doorway is a high relief of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, to whom the cathedral is dedicated, which is flanked by sculptures of the Apostles James and Andrew.  Above the doorway, is the coat of arms of Mexico  with the eagle's wings outstretched. 


During the latter part of the 17th century, the construction of the main part of east tower was completed. 

The main portal, was built in 1688, as was the one on the east. The west façade was built in1688, but was rebuilt in 1804, and depicts the Four Evangelists, it also has a high reliefs depicting Jesus handing the Keys of Heaven to Saint Peter. The east side façade was constructed in 1689 and shows a ship carrying the four apostles. The north façade however, is the oldest part of the cathedral being built in the 16th 

The particularly ornate tabernacle, on the right, is connected, to the main cathedral, via the Chapel of San Isidro. This contains the baptistery and was built between 1749 and 1760, to house the archives and vestments of the archbishop. It also functions as a place to receive the Eucharist and register parishioners. 


Entry into the cathedral’s nave with its two side naves provides access to sixteen chapels. Each of the two side naves contain seven chapels. The other two were created later on the eastern and western sides of the cathedral. These last two are not open to the public.


The first part of the interior that is seen upon entering the cathedral through the main portal is the nave. At the end of the nave on the front corners in front of the main altar facing the pews are two carved marble pulpits. 


The chapels within the cathedral contain ornate altars, altarpieces, retablos, paintings, furniture and sculptures. One of the nicest is the Altar of Forgiveness.



This altar was damaged by fire caused by an electrical fault in January 1967, which caused considerable damage to the cathedral.  This resulted in extensive repair and renovation work being required.  

Another altar damaged by the fire was the Altar of the Kings. This was constructed in cedar between 1718 to 1725 and gilded and finished between 1736 and 1737.  The chapel is located at the back of the cathedral, beyond the Altar of Forgiveness and the choir, in a space known as "royal chapel", as it was the custom in New Spain to dedicate the main chapel of any Spanish cathedral to the ruling king.


The Chapel of Saint Joseph, built between 1654 and 1660, contains a statue of Saint Joseph, patron saint of New Spain, the main altarpiece is Baroque and is from the 18th century and contains statues and cubicles containing busts of the Apostles, but has no paintings.


The Chapel of the Immaculate Conception  gets its name from the delicate but striking sculpture of the Virgin Mary in the center of the altarpiece, which is completely gilded: It contains paintings in ornate mouldings.  Originally built in 1642, although the altarpiece dates to around the 18th century. 



The chapel by the entrance off the main portal is the Chapel of Saint Philip of Jesus. Born in Mexico City in 1572 Philip of Jesus was the first Mexican Saint. The chapel is in high gothic style with a domed roof and Baroque altarpiece. A statue of the Saint with arms outstretched and the spears by which he was killed, behind him. 


Above the crossing  is an octagonal dome framed by arches that form curved triangles where they meet at the top of the dome

The cathedral has had a number of organs since 1530.  The first large organ for the Cathedral was built in Madrid from 1689 to 1690 and installed in 1693 to 1695. 

The current organs are situated above the walls of the choir. They include one completed in 1736, which incorporated elements of the 17th-century organ. They are the largest 18th-century organs in the Americas.  The organs were damaged by fire in 1967, and were restored in 1978. Further restoration work was carried out in 2008/2009 and in 2014.


Underneath the cathedral is the Crypt, which holds the remains of many of the former archbishops. 

The location of their remains being indicated by bronze plaques on the walls.



              All  Photographs were taken by and are copyright of Ron Gatepain

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