The Chapel of the Concepción Cuepopan is popularly known as La Conchita and even, the Chapel of the Dead (Capilla de los Muertos). A tiny, near-perfect 18th-century temple, the Baroque here couldn’t be more enticing.
The Plaza de la Concepción is in the northwest of the Centro Histórico, but it used to somewhere else entirely.
Cuepopan-Tlaquechiuhca was one of the neighborhoods of Mexico-Tenochtitlan. It was also the main setting for battles between the Tenochca people, and their long-time rivals, the Tepanecas. Only with the formation of the Triple Alliance, which included the Tepanecs of Tlacopan, today’s Tacuba, were the Tepanecs of today’s Azcpotzalco finally subdued.
Tenochtitlan also had major showdowns here with their even nearer neighbors from Tlatelolco. Largely in what is today the Colonia Guerrro, the neighborhood changed radically after the arrival of the Spanish. But the name stuck at least for this little plaza.
The chapel was founded in the middle of the 18th century and originally dedicated to Santa Lucía of Syracuse. It was, at the time, part of the enormous Immaculate Conception Church and Convent, just south and across the street. Closed late in the same century, it was eventually abandoned. By the mid-19th century, it came to be used as a paupers’ mortuary. That explains the pleasantly morbid nick-name, the Chapel of the Dead.
By 1927, the Federal Education Board repurposed it again to serve as a library. Just four years later, in 1931, the Chapel’s historical monument status became official.
The perfectly hexagonal chapel is covered in an exposed red brick cupola and a tiny roof lantern. The façade is of two bodies. A semicircular arch makes up the lower part. The elaborate molding has plant elements, with fluted pilasters on either side. The key-stone relief is Francisc of Assisi, adorned above with more plant decoration. The second body holds a niche with a sculpture representing Jesus of Nazareth with a cross on his back. This is topped by a broken pediment on which is a relief-monogram of the Virgin Mary.
A good restoration of the chapel took place in 2016. Since then, the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception has served as a centerpiece for a number of outstanding digital projection projects. If one is scheduled, don’t miss it.
Souces cited on this page:
Clementina Battcock & Claudia Andrea Gotta: http://www.scielo.org.mx/
La resemantización de un espacio sagrado en la Nueva España:
Cuepopan, de mojonera y escenario ritual a Santa María la Redonda
The Merceditas Temple was once the church on the old road to Chapultepec.