Whether you are religious or not, churches are often worth a visit for their stunning architecture and opulent decoration. On hot days, taking refuge in a cool church for a few minutes is very welcome! Although the presence of churches in Mexico and their placement on top of important Aztec sites could be resented by some, the majority of the Mexican population (a whopping 80%) identify as Roman Catholic, making Mexico the second largest Catholic population in the world after Brazil. The trend shows a growing number of Protestant and Evangelical Christians, and a very slow decline in Catholics. However, with a population estimated to be nearing 120 million, Mexico still needs a lot of churches, regardless of denomination!
Here is our pick of churches in Mexico City that you should take time to visit! Some are well-known, others a little more off the beaten track.
A must for any tourist, the Catedral Metropolitana is hard to miss, with pride of place overlooking the Zocalo. Built atop the Templo Mayor (which has been partly excavated and is visible round the back of the cathedral), this impressive structure took around 250 years to reach its current state, with sections being added during that time around the original church. Inside, 14 of the 16 chapels are open to the public, each celebrating a particular saint. The two bell towers are home to 25 bells, one of which has had its clapper removed and is known as ‘the mute one’, following the death of a bell ringer who was killed by the bell swinging and hitting him in the head. Find it in the Zocalo!
Basilica de Guadalupe
Technically now two basilicas, the old and new stand side by side. The original church on the right was built after it is said Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, not once, but four times in December 1531. The basilica became and remains the most important pilgrimage site for Roman Catholics around the world. The original basilica began sinking due to poor foundations and was closed – however the new ‘futuristic’ basilica you can see on the left was built to accommodate worshippers. After extensive works, visitors and pilgrims can now visit the original basilica, where it is said Saint Juan’s cloak with the image of Guadalupe is held. Find it in Tepeyac.
Iglesia de Santo Domingo
Three block north of the Catedral Metropolitana, you can find the splendid Santo Domingo church. Originally the site was built as the first monastery in ‘New Spain’ in 1526 following the Spanish conquest. Two more churches were added to the site and the foundations were strengthened to leave us what we can see today. The style of the church is considered ‘Mexican Baroque’ and the inside is in the shape of Latin cross. Visitors can see stone figures of saints inside, oil paintings and carved cherubs. Find it in the city center.
Also known as the Temple of San Felipe Neri, ‘La Profesa’ is nestled in the heart of the city. It’s facade is an example of the change in style from a conservative Baroque to a more flamboyant Baroque, visible in the intricate outside workings and stone contrasts. The church was recently the site for the discussions in the beatification of Juan Diego, the now Saint who Guadalupe appeared to. Inside the church, an art collection spanning three centuries in held, with works by Mexican artists such as Cristobal de Villalpando. Find the church at the corner of Madero and Isabel de la Catolica.
Ex-Templo de San Hipolito
Located at the corner of Reforma and Hidalgo, this church is a homage to the Spanish fighters who fell against the Aztecs in the Battle of the Sad Night in 1521. The church is also known as the Temple of San Judas Tadeo, as the most revered image of Saint Judas is held here. On October 28th, the day of Saint Judas, people flock to this church to pray for his help with finding a job or resolving their financial problems. In fact, the church holds a mass for this purpose on the 28th of each month, and you may see worshippers bringing their wooden Saint Judas carvings covered in rosaries and dressed in his colors of green and white. Find the temple here.
Iglesia de San Juan Bautista
In the center of the charming Coyoacan, this church stands tall and proud as a symbol of Hispanic Baroque architecture. It was one of the first churches to be built by the Spanish, although little remains of the original apart from the outside. The inside was renovated in the 20th century and is spectacular, in particular the ceiling! Find the church in Coyoacan.
More churches to add to the list? Let us know in this discussion forum!