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Mexico City Metropoloitan Cathedral

The Metropolitan Cathedral and its side chapel represent a synthesis of art in New Spain. After penetrating its imposing sun-bathed baroque and neoclassical facade, the visitor enters the ethereal half-light of this hallowed shrine, with its five separate naves, its side chapels, and its sacred religious icons.

The religious ceremonies are performed against the interest of hundred of visitors but, with a little luck, it may be possible to hear the strains of one of the cathedral's monumental organs. The City's soft clay subsoil, subject to continuous movement over the years, has propitiated the gradual sinking of many building such as the cathedral, and sophisticated restoration works, partially visible, have prevented its collapse.

The transformation of the Aztec city started when Spaniards destroyed the pagan temples in 1521: the outdoor ceremonies were then celebrated in open chapels, the holy Eucharist took the place of human sacrifices, green feathers were replaced by golden thread cloths and ancient rain and wind gods took the form of Catholic saints posing on golden altar pieces.

Turquoise and pedernal stone were buried to give life to gold monstrances, and the sound of native drums to imported organs. An ancient pagan skull platform (Tzompantli), located in site was substituted by ossuaries and graves beneath the monument. Today, both words mingle just in front of the Cathedral by the means of conchero dances and chaman rites.

Mexico City Cathedral evolved through three centuries, gathering artistic stiles, devotions, lavish ceremonies and encoded bell rings, that marked the pace of time in the Viceroyalty’s capital. For this reason, the monument is not only an outstanding architectural piece, but most of all a social symbol that reveals the power of the Catholic hierarchy, a refuge for sorrowed souls, the origin of riots but also the grave or our ancestors and the centre of a nation.

From Roberto Escartín, Dimensión Histórica, 2019.



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