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Purísima Corazón de María Reina de la Paz, The Immaculate Heart of Mary Queen of Peace.
The Church is most famous to the English-speaking world for its place in the 1996 Leonardo DiCaprio film, Romeo and Juliet. To its Mexico City public, it’s known, not entirely disparagingly, as “Nuestra Señora del Tránsito”, i.e. Our Lady of Transit. The figure atop appears to be directing traffic in the busy Mariscal Sucre circle below.
There’s another unfortunate aspect to the figure, often confused with the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro. She may in fact dissuade one from a more careful examination of the unique 20th-century temple below. It’s more painstakingly decorated and adorned, inside and out, than much smaller structures of half its stature.
Construction on the Temple began in 1938. It was to replace a smaller brick-walled chapel consecrated in 1923. That chapel, entirely closed during the Cristero War (1926 – 1929) was one of just 25 chapels authorized in the City to legally celebrate Mass. It became a parish church soon after in 1931. It was then re-consecrated as the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church.
Funds were raised from community residents, and on September 24, 1938, the engineer Miguel Rebolledo took over plans by the architect, Luis Olvera. Rebolledo was a naval engineer from central Veracruz. He studied in Xalapa and later at the Colegio Militar. While there, he was sent to France to study naval engineering. He returned to work designing and building Mexico’s shipping ports.
Rebolledo is remembered for his work on the Excelsior newspaper building on Avenida Bucarelli (#17) in the city center. That project ran from 1922 through 1924. Perhaps more importantly, Rebolledo is credited with having introduced reinforced concrete to Mexican construction in 1902. That’s when understanding this church starts to get a little easier.
Construction began in earnest in 1945. By 1947, the architect Antonio Muñoz García took over the project. He’d built numerous other churches, but also the Abelardo Rodríguez Market (1933-1935) and the Supreme Court of Justice building in 1935. By 1953, the base of the dome was built on top of the central vault. The plans called for a building to be even higher. At the time though, the planning authorities wouldn’t permit a structure taller than the Monument to the Revolution. That work, now seeming strangely familiar, was finally completed in 1938.
The first mass was held here in 1954.
At 65 meters high, the polyhedron dome climbs up a full 20 meters. The figure atop is a further ten meters tall from its base. Inside and out, the church must be patiently appreciated. The stained glass windows, and the extensive murals covering some 1,400 square meters in the interior are among the best of their kind in the past century.
The church itself describes the temple as something “between art deco and functionalism, with a certain gothic air.” They’ve even shared a guide to the many paintings within the church. You can download it here.
The Immaculate Heart of Mary Church is on Gabriel Mancera Street between Torres Adalid and Luz Saviñon. It’s at the intersection of Division del Norte with Amores and Colonia Del Valle Avenues.
Frankly, it’s visible from practically anywhere. And it’s worth some time pondering.