At more than 400 years old, this cathedral is a spectacular icon of colonial architectural and Roman Catholic history in the Americas.
Hernán Cortés, who led the Spanish colonization of the Americas, laid the first stone for the Metropolitan Cathedral in 1524. See the Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical features incorporated in this huge architectural marvel as it was constructed over a 300-year span.
At the church’s beginning, a temple was built using stones from the Templo Mayor of the Great Tenochtitlán, the ancient city overrun by Cortés in his Aztec conquest. By 1547 this temple was declared a cathedral. Later in that century, after it was demolished, a new cathedral was begun at the same spot, symbolically atop the Aztec Pyramid of the Sun. Visit today to appreciate this historic religious structure and its splendid artworks. Restorative work over past decades has stabilized the sinking the structure has seen since its origin.
While the interior was finished and the building inaugurated in 1667, the exterior wasn’t completed until 1813. Architect Manuel Tolsá designed the façades and bell towers. Look up to see the cupola in the transept and sculptures of Hope, Faith and Charity.
Tour the interior, which is laid out in a Latin Cross design. Walk past the choir and 14 chapels as well as several main altars, two large organs and original furniture. This includes choir stalls from Macau and a lectern from the Philippines, both Spanish Empire colonies when the church was constructed. Note the sacristy murals by Juan Correa and Cristóbal de Villalpando.
Architect Guillermo de Balbás created the Royal Chapel behind the main Altar of the Kings. Between golden Baroque columns, inspect the paintings of kings and queens who became saints. In the central nave, see the ironwork Altar of Forgiveness with the Christ of Poison.
The Metropolitan Cathedral borders Plaza de la Constitución or Zócalo in Mexico City’s historical center. Take the metro to Zócalo station. Visit the cathedral for free any day between morning and evening. Check to see if a bell tower climb or a choir recital or concert will be held during your visit. Elsewhere on the square, see the National Palace, the city hall and numerous arcaded antique shops.