Mexico City’s Metropolitan Cathedral

Dominating the northern side of the Zocalo in the historic quarter of Mexico City, the Metropolitan Cathedral is the largest Roman Catholic Cathedral in the Americas.

Sacristy in Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral

Dominating the northern side of the Zocalo in the Centro Historico, the historic quarter of Mexico City, the Metropolitan Cathedral is the largest Roman Catholic Cathedral in the Americas.

Its formal name is the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven (or, in Spanish: Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de la Santísima Virgen María a los cielos).

There are other ornate cathedrals in the Americas, but this one is the largest and has one of the longest histories.

It was built in stages over the course of 1573 to 1813, gradually replacing a church that was built on the site when the Spanish first conquered Tenochtitlan. And the site is no accident–it was deliberately constructed next to the Templo Mayor, one of the main temples of the Aztecs in their capital city of Tenochtitlan. Even the stones used to construct the cathedral were plundered (or recycled, depending on your perspective) from the Aztec temple.

The exterior of the cathedral, with its gothic styling and weathered gray stone, somehow manages to look heavy and even somewhat drab despite its ornamentation, the gray stone looking far more like it should be in cold and dark Europe than in Central America.

But step in inside and you’re immediately greeted, by the glistening, large, and ornate gold Altar of Forgiveness. It is here that many of the cathedral’s day-to-day services are held. But it is just a preview of what lies beyond.

There’s an even larger altar, the Altar of the Kings, on the northern wall that stretches up to the towering ceiling. It manages to be even more ornate. And lining the sides of the nave are sixteen smaller chapels, each unique and ornate (only about four are open to visitors).

Step into the sacristy, on the northeast corner (when it’s open), and you’re greeted by yet another explosion of color and detail. Renaissance and Gothic art stretch from floor to the arched dome ceiling with a variety of religious scenes depicted.

Photos of Mexico City’s Metropolitan Cathedral

Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
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Silhouette of Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
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Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
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Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral Exterior from Zocalo
A view of the front of the Metropolitan Cathedral from Madero Street which runs along the northern side of the Zocalo in the historic quarter of Mexico City. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral Painting
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 Altar of Forgiveness in Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
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Votives in Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
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Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
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Sacristy in Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
The oldest and one of the most ornate sections of the Metropolitan Cathedral–the Sacristy. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Nave of the Altar of the Kings in Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
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Chandelier in Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
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Wooden Door at Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
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Altar of the Kings in Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
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Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
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Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
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Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO –One of the two pipe organs in the Metropolitan Cathedral. The cathedral houses two of the largest 18th-century pipe organs in the Americas. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
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Pins in Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
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 Altar of Forgiveness in Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
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Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
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Pendulum in Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO –A pendulum hanging in the middle of the nave of the Metropolitan Cathedral shows the slow shifting of the foundations of the church since it was built in the 16th century. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
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Statue on Exterior of Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
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Sacristy in Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
The oldest and one of the most ornate sections of the Metropolitan Cathedral–the Sacristy. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Sacristy in Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
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Sacristy in Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
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Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
A painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe in a chapel in the Metropolitan Cathedral. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
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Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
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Altar of the Kings in Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
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Chapel in Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
One of the ornate chapels lining the main hall of the Metropolitan Cathedral. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
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Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral Interior
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Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
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Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
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Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral Decorations
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Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
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Altar of the Kings in Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
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Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
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Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
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Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
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Statue of Pope John Paul II Outside the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
A statue of Pope John Paul II outside the western side of the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City. With 5 visits to Mexico during his tenure, Pope John Paul II is a particularly beloved pontiff in Mexico. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
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Bell Tower of Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
 Altar of Forgiveness in Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com

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David Coleman / Photographer
by David Coleman

I'm a freelance travel photographer based in Washington DC. Seven continents, up mountains, underwater, and a bunch of places in between. My images have appeared in numerous publications, and you can check out some of my gear reviews and tips here. More »