Santo Tomás la Palma is, for international visitors, nestled deep within the La Merced Barrio. To the east of Centro Histórico, it’s actually just north of the west exit of the Metro Merced station. (The east exit is inside of the market). If not for the inverted-arch walls surrounding the atrium, it seems likely that vendors in the neighborhood would set up here, too.
It’s an incredibly busy area. The church is popular though for offering an instantly recognizable reminder that this is, after all, a very old neighborhood. Dedicated to the Apostle Saint Thomas, the church is still the parish church for what used to be the La Palma district. It was probably built by the Augustinians in the 16th century. There are records of an earlier adobe chapel. The construction of this temple began in 1728. There was a remodeling in the 19th century when the vaulting was added to the roof. A part still had the old-style beam ceiling that was notoriously hard to maintain. This was also when the parish had the inverted arches and portico added to surround the atrium.
The church was a dependent of the Santa Cruz de la Soledad Church. The plaza was named for Saint Thomas first, and the church took that name and dedication. The simple façade is intended to highlight the relief of the Crucifixion. The dome over the transept and the decoration is likely from the 20th century. Inside, although it’s been heavily modernized, it’s still an oasis of calm and old-school charm.
The rugged façade is worth looking out for. Santo Tomás la Palma is not often the first place visitors will head to in the neighborhood. But its two palms mark the entrance to the atrium clearly. From the always-busy street, it’s often a welcome respite from all the bustle and comings and goings.