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The Old Parish Church of the Indians is the oldest building that is preserved within the entire Basilica complex. Today it is administered by the Capuchinas of the Parish Church of Santa Maria de Guadalupe. its main church is almost in front of it. They also manage the Capilla de Juramentos, in their old convent immediately to the left when you approach this ancient hermitage.
It is also said that the church is where Juan Diego lived during the last part of his life between 1531 and 1548. According to tradition, the church housed the original and sacred image of the Virgin of Guadalupe from 1695 to 1709. Later it was transferred to the building of the old Basílica.
Built around 1649, the church came at the request of the vicar of the then independent city of Guadalupe. The same vicar would have printed the Nican Mopohua, that is, a Nahuatl narrative of the apparitions of the Virgin of Guadalupe written by Antonio Valerian. The same vicar used the church to provide evangelistic and religious services to the sizable indigenous population, A brotherhood of all indigenous peoples was established here later in 1679.
The church is also famous for having housed the banner with which Miguel Hidalgo led the first part of the Mexican War for Independence. That artifact was kept here from 1853 to 1896. Shortly thereafter, the church seriously deteriorated and remained without a roof until 1998. It was reopened on the 450th anniversary of Juan Diego’s death.
The sacristy of the church, to the right of the altar, contains remains of two previous hermitages. One was built by Bishop Zumárraga in 1531. Bishop Montúfar replaced it with another in 1556. A third church, from 1622, sometimes called “the coffered ceiling church” because of the richly decorated wooden ceiling. None of that church remains.
Today the Old Parish Church of the Indians is a much loved part of the Parish Church of Santa María. It is often used for special Masses, sermons, and events relevant to the large parish in your community. Daily mass is given at 8 a.m. Sunday to Friday.
For tired Basilica visitors and Railfans, Mexico City's Railroad Museum makes a nice history-heavy stop.