The Romita Chapel is built on the site of a much older Temple of Santa Maria de la Natividad. Some sources claim it was dedicated already in 1530. According to legend, this dedication was made by the Fray Pedro de Gante himself. Sometime thereafter the dedication changed to El verbo encarnado. Most of the Church’s history saw it dedicated, thus, to the Word Incarnate.
The San Francisco Javier (Saint Francis Xavier in English) dedication came only in 1929. The former atrium of the church is the famous Plaza de Romita. And the better part of the neighborhood dates from after this time. It was always a somewhat distant neighborhood, at a remove from the rest of the City. The same mentality in residents dates from when it was small offshoot, sometimes depicted as an island, off the coast of Tenochtitlan.
The church has gone through many transformations over its many centuries. Parishioners entirely restored it in the 20th century. The choir loft is likely modern, as are the upper additions in the two lateral naves.
Most international visitors won’t sweat the newer additions to the church. The Plaza la Romita is just the center of a crooked and winding neighborhood. It’s one with the history of a place apart. And that history is still very much evident in the La Romita Chapel, and likely every corner of the barrio.