2015 APR – MEXICO CITY BASILICA

The Virgin of Guadalupe imprinted on Juan's cloak - hangs in the (new) basilica now

The Virgin of Guadalupe imprinted on Juan’s cloak – hangs in the (new) basilica now

I had earlier decided to visit Mexico City when I reached Acapulco by taking a road trip inland.  Even though I didn’t make it to Acapulco this month, Francisco and I took the bus anyway.

This metropolis is home to 30 million people, and is quite the madhouse!  It is also the first city I saw where everyone in the streets wore corporate clothes – both the men and women wearing mostly black or grey smart suits – much like New York.  We tourists stuck out like sore thumbs with our shorts and t-shirts.

The new basilica on the left of the square which can house thousands for a service - they all stand because there is no seating.

The new basilica on the left of the square which can house thousands for a service – they all stand because there is no seating.

Not being Catholic, I thought all large churches of a certain shape and decoration, were called cathedrals. Apparently not. Seems regardless of the size and beauty, only one church in a city is decreed to be The Cathedral and has oversight control of all the other churches regardless of their ornateness.

Chapels, on the other hand, are supposed to be small and plain housing only an image of the Virgin to whom you pray. However, we saw some extraordinarily ornate chapels in Mexico City and surrounds.

Aerial photo of the square with the new basilica on the left (green roof).   Copyright MxCty tourist site

Aerial photo of the square with the new basilica on the left (green roof).
Copyright MxCty tourist site

The Mexico City basilica is in a large square near the hill and waterfall where the Virgin appeared, twice.  The square also has a number of other beautifully ornate churches and chapels, though none of them bear the title “Cathedral”.

THE BASILICA

There is a legend that on Dec 9th 1531 the Virgin appeared to an indigenous indian near the waterfall and commanded him to “go to the palace of the bishop of Mexico, and you will say to him that I manifest my great desire, that here on this plain a temple be built to me.”

The old, original basilica of the 1700's

The old, original basilica of the 1700’s

The next day the Virgin appeared again to Juan Diego and told him “I am the perfect always virgin Santa Maria, mother of the true God….”, and encouraged him with his mission.

The roof of the old basilica

The roof of the old basilica

When Juan dutifully visited the bishop, the bishop quite reasonably thought he was hallucinating and asked for proof of the Virgin’s appearance, since the indigenous peoples sometimes partook of the peyote seed.  Juan went away and returned with his cloak that had imprinted on it a picture of the Virgin. He said the Virgin had asked for flowers, which he had provided, and in exchange she imprinted her image on his cloak.

The bishop bought this story and built a temple in her honor that was finished in 1709 on the exact site of the apparitions to Juan Diego. It became a national shrine and site for pilgrimages that have gone on uninterrupted since 1531-32 when work began on the first temple structure. Work has continued over the centuries right up until modern times as more temples, chapels, and churches were built to honor the Virgin of Guadalupe, as she is designated here.

When the original old basilica became dangerous due to the sinking of its foundations, a modern structure called the new Basilica was built next to it in 1974; and the original image of the Virgin of Guadalupe on Juan’s cloak, was moved to the New Basilica. The original Antigua Basilica still stands, but you can see its facade tilts forward from the sinking foundations.

The old basilica with gold dome (tilted on its foundation), next to the nun's church with red roof.

The old basilica with gold dome (tilted on its foundation), next to the nun’s church with red roof.

Between the old basilica and the nun’s church, is a tiny chapel tucked away.  It is just gorgeous.

Tiny chapel tucked between the 2 buildings

Tiny chapel tucked between the 2 buildings

Ornate alter of the tiny church

Ornate alter of the tiny church

 

I just love sitting in churches.  They have such a deep seated silence and peace that I can sit there happily for ages!!

Luckily Francisco seems happy to sit quietly in churches too as we gaze on the gorgeously decorated walls and domes, and whisper to each other as we spot yet another fabulous piece of art, or huge sculpture, detailed painting, or massive wooden carved doors.

And of course, its decorated roof/  My photo does not do it justice.

And of course, its decorated roof/ My photo does not do it justice.

There are a number of other churches and chapels in this square all claiming some rights to the Virgin’s appearance, including the Capilla de las Capuchinas, Capilla del Pocito, and the Templo del Cerrito.

The temple of the first apparition seen thru the trees

The temple of the first apparition seen thru the trees

Close up of this temple

Close up of this temple 0 Capilla del Pocito

In the Capilla del Pocito is an iron grate that apparently covers the original place in the stream where the Virgin first appeared. Seems the people started arriving at the stream and bathing in the waters. Then they started arriving en masse and started washing their clothes in the stream and contaminating it, so the priests covered up the spot with the iron grate.  So this grate indicates the exact site of the apparitions.

Iron grate within the temple covering the stream where the Virgin appeared

Iron grate within the temple covering the stream where the Virgin appeared

This tiny temple houses maybe 100 seated persons for a service.  Besides its famous iron grate, it has a gorgeous painted dome.

Painted dome

Painted dome

 

Today the Catholic church has created a man-made waterfall and stream up the hill from the little chapel with sculptures of the indigenous Indians worshipping at her feet.

Garden showing the manmade waterfall in the distance

Garden showing the manmade waterfall in the distance

 

 

Close up of the Virgin sculpture in the stream with indians worshipping her

Close up of the Virgin sculpture in the stream with indians worshipping her

 

Juan’s actual cloak is now housed in the newest basilica on the plaza (first photo on this page).

Then we schlepped up the hill – climbing stairs is my least favorite activity – to the temple on the hill.  The funds for this little chapel was donated by the local (rich) baker.

Stairs, stairs, and more stairs!

Stairs, stairs, and more stairs!

 

Very plain little church on the hill

Very plain little church on the hill – Templo del Cerrito

 

Fairly simple inside too

Fairly simple inside too

 

Francisco posing with indigenous indians in their colorful dress

Francisco posing with indigenous indians in their colorful dress

 

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