21 January 2011

Mexican Meanders: Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de María

I arrived in Mexico City on the afternoon of January 11, 2011. After taking a cab from the airport to the hostel (where I blogged about here), I immediately put my stuff down and went ahead and saw the sights.

The very first sight I went to was the Zocalo (the main square; more of that later), and right in front of the Zocalo is the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral.

As you can see, it's quite big, that I can't fit it in my frame, unless I step back really far. This is a picture of one of the bell towers (more of that later as well), and the Mexican flag flying above it.

The facade was rather ornate too, although it looked a little austere with the color. There was intricate designs on the whole front of the church, as expected from a large religious institution such as this. Three doors are located at the front, and people can enter on the left and right doors, but not the center.

Inside, the interior is just fabulous, with golden decorations everywhere. Here are some photos of the inside.

The main altar is just filled with gold, and is a stellar sight.

There is also a weight hanging from the very top of the main dome, and although it cannot be seen from my picture, it shows that the ground has shifted, since the dome's center has moved. The plaque at the bottom of the weight actually documents the various movements of the whole building.

Finally, when I was there, there was a little service that was going on in another part of the church. The altar they were using was lit, and so it was especially beautiful.

After taking pictures of the interior, I joined a guided tour of the bell towers, and walked on the roof of the cathedral. I will post an entry about that the next time.


  1. The inside is much more stunning than the outside ! Wow...so much gold !

  2. Sidney,

    Very true! It was quite jaw-dropping!

  3. You know I can’t help thinking about poverty in Mexico during the centuries they built such massive and ornate churches and cathedrals. They are indeed beautiful but many people died building them I am sure. I always think about a book I read about Mother Theresa which said that with all the money she received she could have built a state of the art hospital in India, but instead she had the poor sleep on the floor with only aspirin as medicine (telling them they would soon be in heaven) then sending all the donated money to the Vatican. Many people don’t know that the French Revolution was also about getting rid of the Catholic clergy that was squeezing the poor people dry. To this day France is the most secular country in Europe.

  4. Vagabonde,

    I totally agree. Perhaps all big human structures have a dark side to them. Humans are inherently selfish after all. Even the pyramids of Egypt had its victims.

    Regarding the Catholic Church, I couldn't agree more. As an atheist, I am very uncomfortable with the idea that one should simply believe without questioning what they believe in. It happened in the Philippines too, and with 333 years of Spanish and Catholic oppression, the Filipino people were at a disadvantage, which lead to the Filipino Revolution.

    That being said, I still admire the human ability to construct these wonderful buildings and I would like to visit them whenever I go places to see the sights.

  5. One thing I notice is the Mexican flag flying high both outside and inside this church. Never remembered seeing something like this in the Philippines or elsewhere.

    Isn't there a separation of church and state supposedly?

  6. TNP,

    I haven't seen this before either. In fact, I checked my previous pictures of churches in Europe and I don't think I saw the national flag on top of the church. Perhaps the separation of church and state is not a doctrine that is held in Mexico?

  7. I doubt if the concept of separation of church and state is ingrained in Mexican politics. For an arrangement like that, the political system needs to be quite rational and I am not so sure if Mexico is there yet. It might just be the obsession of flag-waving patriotism. USA is the master of that.

    btw, its nice to see pictures within posts! And the new look. You've been working hard!

  8. Priyank,

    Oh, USA might be obsessed with its flags, but if you ever get to Denmark, you'll be surprised at the amount of flags people wave at the arriving people!

    And yes, I've been working on blog improvement lately.

  9. Latin America's cathedrals are so unique! Religion is a part of life and strangely enough, it does not put me off as an atheist. I guess this is because people interpret it their own way. We are a long way from Rome...

  10. Zhu,

    I agree. I view religion in tourism as more of a cultural thing than a religious thing. It's interesting to see how religion creeps up and manifests itself in different ways in different cultures.

  11. No, no. Religion is no longer a part of state nor does it have any constitutional power. Not anymore. It has been this way for porbably 200 years now. Anyhow, mexican flags fly above almost everything in Mexico(country and city): residencial building, office buldings, houses, stadiums, museums, churches, malls; its a cultural, nationalist symbol. The thing is, absolutely everything in Mexico(...country and city) is very, VERY strongly binded to our culture. Every building, every site, every ideal is a consequence of our history and everything that ever happened here and flags are a tangible representation of that.

  12. Sebastian,

    I understand. In that case, there exists a confusing situation. Article 130 of the Mexican Constitution says that the church and the state should be separate. I agree that religion is a cultural establishment, and marking a church with a flag can also simply mean that it is a symbol marking the church (or the building) as part of the culture that the flag symbolizes. I agree, that is a charitable reading. However, flags have been for the most part a symbol of the government and political entity that it represents. Hence, having a flag displayed on a church can easily be mistaken as an official endorsement of the government to this one particular religion.

    I suppose if I see other churches of other religions with the Mexican flag on it, then this other interpretation would be irrelevant.