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Santa María Magdalena Atolman is a parish church in the Modelo Pensil neighborhood. Atolman is the name of a settlement that was part of the ancient city of Tlacopan. Atolman, sometimes written “Tolman,” means simply “place of tule,” referring to the reeds used to weave mats and baskets. The Spanish dedicated a small chapel here to Saint Mary Magdeline, and it remained a visiting chapel of the San Gabriel, the main Church in Tacuba.
The larger surrounding town is today most renamed for the neighborhoods surrounding the Pensil Mexicano gardens. These are said to have been so fabulous that seemingly the entire 19th century saw them as the area’s principle attraction. Today six neighborhoods in the larger Anahuac section of Miguel Hidalgo still bear the name of the Pensil.
For most of the 20th century, the church though was in such poor condition that mass was said beneath an improvised roof outside. Due to the church’s great age, in 1967 the parish had to finally request permission to demolish the ruin. What we see today is a replacement church built on the same plot of land. The Monuments Commission requested only that the original stone cross be preserved in a prominent position. And so it is even to this day.
Today’s Santa María Magdalena is probably most important simply for preserving the name of old Atolman. Still, the surrounding neighborhoods have been some of the most quickly appreciating in Mexico City. The Granada neighborhoods to the south have seen to that.