Ciudad de México, D.F., México – Excessive Catholicism: The crooked monster cathedral

Monstrous, gigantic, swanky: America’s largest cathedral stands in Mexico City and is at the same time the heart of the world’s biggest Catholic diocese. Its completion took nearly three centuries, from 1525 to 1813. That mirrors in the different architectural styles from classic via baroque, churriguerism to neo-classic. It contains five main altars and 16 side chapels. The monster was built for eternity, but it seems to be threatened by destruction. Catedral Metropolitana slowly sinks, as the rest of the city centre, into the soft clay soil of the former lake Texco that disappeared except for a small pond.

The Aztecs already erected their capital Tenochtitlán on the island in the lake. Under sovereign Moctezuma and his successors a huge empire came into being from 1440 on, which contained large parts of today’s Mexico in the 16th century. The demanded tributes of the subjugated people in the form of gold, silver, furs, honey, cocoa and others brought the Aztecs wealth and so much hatred that two nations formed an alliance with the penetrating Spaniards and brought down Tenochtitlán faster than it would have been without help. The Spanish conqueror Hernán Cortés razed the centre of the Aztec empire to the ground and built his own capital on the ruins and the slowly drying lake.

For maintenance of the cathedral costly, mostly underground restoration was necessary. In the inside of the church we sometimes stumble because the floor slopes remarkably into different directions. Steeples tilt, altars stand crookedly, and a plumb line installed decades ago in the centre of the church shows the building’s pendular movement. Even now the pendulum swings, it trembles nearly imperceptibly but continuously. The national palace is located, as the cathedral is, on the Zócalo, Mexico City’s big centre place. It was built on the knocked down palace of Moctezuma II. Later all 62 viceroys reigned here, and even today’s Mexican president has his offices here.

A spectacular discovery was made in the corner between cathedral and Palacio Nacionál during excavations for the subway in 1978. The main temple of the Aztecs, built in the 14th and 15th century that was thought to be destroyed and built over, turned up. Today only pitiful remainders of the former splendid building can be seen. Some finds are displayed in the museum (entrance for both 51 MXN pp).

Our friend Adriana whom we already met in Canada is by chance in Mexico City and invited us to the restaurant100 % Natural. Food is very tasty. The philosophy of the restaurant chain is to offer traditional Mexican food in a healthier, less fatty way. We are surprised to learn that Adriana is the founder and owner of the franchising company, although she transferred the management in the meantime to her brother. 100 % Natural has 45 restaurants in Mexico and belongs to the country’s big chains.

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