Villa Milpa Alta’s Parish Church of the Assumption is a striking former monastery founded by the Franciscans in the 16th century. The austerity of the architecture is in keeping with many of the Franciscan buildings of the era. Construction took place between 1585 and 1630. A very wide atrium still welcomes guests into what used to be an outdoor chapel.
It should be noted that much of the center of Villa Milpa Alta is on the former monastery grounds. This extends to the Acaldia government buildings which are by design close to what was the religious center of the region. Here by the church, a cemetery was still interring the deceased in the 1970’s.
The style of this complex is in fact merged with the designs of pre-Hispanic religious and ceremonial sites. Big public squares were then built next to temples. The multiple functions of this site later called for the building of the Chapel of the Sacred Heart (Sagrado Corazon) at what was the Pilgrims’ Portal, the main entrance to the atrium, leading in to the atrial cross.
Next to the Sagrado Corazón chapel is another dedicated to El Señor de los Miseracordias. The Lord of Mercies chapel has dramatic vaulting and an arch above the altar. Outside of this chapel, a very old baptismal font was obviously carved by indigenous hands. The first record of baptisms at the site is dated August 15th, 1532. Each 15th of August, the Catholic feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, is still celebrated with the baptisms.
The interior of the main temple has a series of smaller chapels and similar spaces for inhabitants from when it used to be a monastery. The formidable walls surrounding the complex also contain multiple religious artworks. Many of them display outstanding craftsmanship. The most celebrated though is the the Virgin Mary of the Assumption which depicts the Virgin ascending into the sky accompanied by celestial figures and what seem to be Spanish landlords on the bottom. Some walls are decorated in the blue Talavera tile which was popular during the Colonial times.
The complex was declared an historical monument in 1932. The Altepepialcalli Regional Museum is all but on the same grounds as the former monastery. From the Museum entrance, some of the best views of the Parish Church of the Assumption can be had.
Hours: daily, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.