The Cathedral of Iztapalapa is also known as the Señor de la Cuevita National Sanctuary. Just south of the Historical Center, it began as a grotto at the base of the Cerro de la Estrella. Originallly dedicated to the Christ Child, over time it was replaced by an open-air chapel. The three arches of that chapel have been preserved in the façade we see today.
The main altar of the church is today dedicated to the Lord of the Holy Sepulcher (see below). That name is, more officially, the name of the entire cathedral complex (Santuario del Señor del Santo Sepulcro de Jerusalén) NeoClassical in style, the building was begun in the mid-19th century. The right bell tower dates from 1857. It’s a bit more elaborate than that on the left which dates from 1907. Passersby can be forgiven for thinking the enormormous atrium is a park.
The Señor de la Cuevita is a mortuary statue said to have originated in Oaxaca. Officials from Villa de Etla, just north of the capital city, sent the staute to be restored at one of the monastery workshops in Mexico City in 1687. Along the way, they stopped overnight at this tiny cave at the base of the mountain. Come morning, the statue was too heavy to be lifted, and the people of Iztapalapa adopted it and the dedication. A modest hermitage was built at the entrance to the cave.
The figure was later credited with helping the population during a devastating cholera epidemic in 1833. The Semana Santa processions and passion plays began soon after and have been an important part of Iztapalapa public life ever since. The cathedral church was also begun in gratitude for assistance during the epidemic.
The Cathedral is also home to the Virgin of the Bullet. Since the 17th century, the figure was broadly revered as the protector of the east of Mexico City. After a storied history, the statue was considered lost for most of the 20th century, but was identified by researchers, again, only in 2007.
Today, the Cathedral of Iztapalapa shares its designation as the most important church in Iztapalapa with the Church of San Lucas just a few blocks to the north. The atrium is far more tranquil, removed as it is from the main center of town. Just a few minutes walk east from Metro Iztapalapa, it’s an important point on the larger Cerro de la Estrella, and in the Historic Center of Iztapalapa.