Friday, May 8, 2015

The Fourteen Chapels of The Cathedral of Mexico City

For someone unfamiliar with life in a Cathedral, the multitude of Chapels seems to distract our attention from the main altars. However, as we will see, the side altars of this Cathedral, serve many important functions.
Inside the chapel of Saint Felipe de Jesus
The Crypt of The Emperor Iturbide of Mexico
As we face the Cathedral, we see that it has a main Jubilee door, which opens only on special occasions. If we enter into the door to our right hand, that is towards the east, we will come upon a series of chapels on the right-hand side of this side aisle. These fourteen chapels are:
  • Chapel of Our Mother of Sorrows, Nuestra Señora de la Angustias de Granada
  • Chapel of San Isidro Labrador,
  • Chapel of the Immaculate Conception
  • Chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe,
  • Chapel of Our Lady de la Antigua,
  • Chapel of Saint Peter
  • Chapel of Christ and the Relics

The throne of the Emperor Iturbide, who was coronate in the Cathedral
If at this point, we cross the transept, from behind the main altar, crossing on our way in front of the Altar of the Kings retablo, we come to the west side of the Cathedral, and start our way back to the main entrance of the Cathedral, but on the opposite side of the chorus then from where we entered, the order of the chapels are:
  • Chapel of San Felipe de Jesus,
  • Chapel of Our Mother of Sorrow
  • Chapel of Nuestro Senor del Buen Despacho
  • Chapel of Our Lady of Soledad
  • Chapel of Saint Joseph
  • Chapel of Saint Cosme and Damian
  • Chapel of the Holy Angels
The gothic ceiling of the Chapel of Saint Felipe de Jesus
Why so many Chapels? Although there might not be an official explanation for this multitude of chapels, there are probably two major reasons behind the multitude. First of all, the Catholic Faith was and is the common uniting force of religion in Mexico during the period of the Nueva España, but the religious traditions in la Nueva España mirrored those of Spain, with its territorial and cultural diversity. Some of these chapels were oriented to the local community of Spanish immigrants from Granada, or that of other communities. Spanish immigrants from different parts of Spain tended to stick together in la Nueva España, doing business with their "own people", marrying among their own, and socializing mainly among their own.
Tbe baptismal fountain where Saint Felipe
de Jesus was baptized
The other reason behind the multitude of chapels was the great amount of celebrants, that is, priests, each one needing an altar to celebrate his mail. There was a time when early every morning all the altars were busy, with priests celebrating Mass.

A closer look at the encased baptismal fountain
of Saint Felipe de Jesus
A third possible for so many chapels was to attract a certain variety of the faithful devoted to different advocations of Our Blessed Virgin Mary and of certain renown Saints, either because of their importance in the entire Catholic Church, as is the case of Saint Peter, or because of their local following, such as in the case of Saint Felipe de Jesus, Martyr and the first canonized Mexican saint, who was born nearby the Cathedral, was baptized here, and now is venerated in one of the fourteen chapels.

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