The Church of San Luis Obispo de Tolosa is the parish church of San Luis Tlaxilatemalco. It was built by the Franciscan, Alonso de Paz Monterrey, in about 1603. It was then a visiting chapel of the Franciscan Cathedral of Xochimilco, visited for a mass every 15 days.
The building began as a hermitage in 1586. 1603 marks the beginning of the formal construction. This was rebuilt in 1897 and remains to this day. The Franciscans are said to have sought support from a group of French businessmen for the construction costs. Thus they chose a French Franciscan as patron saint of the town. Saint Louis, the Bishop of Toulouse (1274–1297), died at age 23 having labored for the poor of that town.
The anymous paintings of San Luis Obispo and San Sebastián Mártir are particularly important to the parish collections. They’re also unusual for what was mostly a poor Franciscan church. A 1753 paiting of Saint Louis of France is signed by Isidro Meunillo.
During the Mexican Revolution all of the sacred church instruments including a monstrance, chalice, sculpture, and a painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe were stolen. Today the atrium remains remarkably intact. It still provides something of a civic space for the town. It competes quite directly with the Acuexcomatl Center for Environmental Culture. This is more generally visited by out-of-towners.
But the Church of San Luis Obispo remains the most prominent landmark in the center of town. It’s also at the center of a hodgepodge of old and wonderfully crooked streets and a history that’s still being written today.