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The Barrio San Pablo is one of the eight traditional neighborhoods of the Iztapalapa Historic Center. It’s arguably best known for hosting the Pasión por Iztapalapa Museum of Cultures. But that’s only because visitors often don’t realize that the Mercado Cabecera is here too. San Pablo can be said to exist rather placidly between these two poles. Technically the neighborhood includes the Iztapalapa Cathedral and graveyard, and even Metro Iztapalapa.
Part of the ancient half-town of Axomulco, (Santa Barbara Atlalilco is the other half), it’s mostly a quiet residential neighborhood. Like each of the eight original barrios, San Pablo is also centered around a modern chapel. This one is unique for its rare Neo-Gothic style, the entrance set off by the two towers at 45 degree angles to the façade. The clock announces the time every three hours with a theme song that accompanied Pope John Paul II’s first visit to Mexico.
Perhaps interestingly, the Chapel is dedicated to Paul of Thebes (229-342 CE) rather than Paul the Apostle as many will assume. It’s officially the Capilla de San Pablo Ermitaño. This recalls that his life was recorded, early, by Saint Jerome in The Life of Saint Paul the First Hermit (Vita Pauli primi eremitae).
Construction on the chapel began in 1948 and was mostly completed in 1952, though the towers were completed only in 1979. Facing the Sala Quetzalcoatl which often provides a central plaza to the Barrio San Pablo, the towering chapel is quite an important part of the neighborhood skyline.