Mexican Cathedrals and Churches to Visit

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Mexico’s rich architectural and cultural heritage is reflected in its numerous cathedrals, which showcase a blend of European and indigenous architectural styles. Dating as far back as the 16th century, when the Spanish colonizers came here to conquer the territory and built the first cathedrals.

Veracruz was the first colonial city in Mexico founded in 1519 and Mexico City was founded on the ruins of Tenochtitlan, the erstwhile capital of Aztec Empire in 1521. And Hernan Cortes may have ordered the construction of the Metropolitan Cathedral over the ruins of the ancient Templo Mayor back in 1521, construction for that cathedral did not start till much later in 1573.

In fact, taking almost 40 years to build from 1561 to 1598, the Mérida Cathedral in Yucatán is the oldest cathedral in Mexico. That one of course was followed by many other beautiful pieces of architecture that feature ornate decorations, intricate carvings, and vibrant colors. Different churches and cathedrals from different periods feature different architectural styles, from Renaissance and Romanesque to Baroque and Neo-Classical. You’ll also find Mayan and Aztec craftsmanship incorporated into the church architecture.

Here is a list of notable Mexican Cathedrals you must visit on your trip to Mexico.

1. The Templo Expiatorio del Sagrado Sacramento in Guadalajara

By Paul from Playas y Plaza

Exterior of Templo Expiatorio del Santísimo Sacramento.
Templo Expiatorio del Santísimo Sacramento
By Paul from Playas y Plaza

The Templo Expiatorio del Santísimo Sacramento in Guadalajara, Jalisco is one of the most beautiful churches in Mexico. It was designed in the neo-gothic style with an Italian influence by Architect Adamo Boari. The stone columns and adornments were hand carved much like temples were built in the Middle Ages.

Started in 1897, it took more than 75 years to complete the church due to revolution and religious war. The architectural style is different from the churches built during the Spanish colonial era.

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In 2023, Time Out Magazine declared the Colonia Americana in Guadalajara to be the coolest neighborhood in the world. The Templo Expiatorio is the finest piece of architecture in that neighborhood. There are cool bars, night markets, and street tacos in the plazas surrounding the church.

Visiting the Templo Expiatorio del Santísimo Sacramento is one of Guadalajara’s coolest things to do.

2. Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral

By Daria from Explore Baja California

Exterior view of Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral.
Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
By Daria from Explore Baja California

The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven, also known as the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral, is one of the most iconic landmarks in Mexico City and a significant cultural and religious site in Mexico.

Located in the heart of Zocalo, the historic center of Mexico City, the cathedral is a major Latin American landmark and a cultural center.

Construction of the cathedral began in 1573 on the site of an Aztec temple, shortly after the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire.

It took just under 250 years to complete the cathedral, with various architectural elements, including Renaissance, Baroque, and Neoclassical elements.

The cathedral’s façade features two bell towers and three ornate portals adorned with intricate sculptures and carvings. Inside, visitors can admire its impressive altars, chapels, and a collection of religious artwork spanning centuries.

3. Puebla Cathedral, Puebla, Mexico

By Soumya of Stories by Soumya

Inside view of Puebla Cathedral, Puebla, Mexico.
Puebla Cathedral, Puebla, Mexico
By Soumya of Stories by Soumya

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Puebla, or the Puebla Cathedral for short, is an impressive Baroque church and one of Puebla’s unmissable attractions.

Located in the middle of the UNESCO-recognized Historic Center of Puebla, the Puebla Cathedral dates to the 16th century and features a beautiful interior adorned with sculptures and frescoes. Do not miss the King’s Altar, a 17th-century Baroque masterpiece.

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The Puebla Cathedral, which features the imprints of many artists and architects, took nearly 170 years to complete. Construction began in 1575 and was halted several times until 1640 when Bishop Juan de Palafox y Mendoza resumed the building efforts in full swing. The cathedral was consecrated in 1649.

After being completed in 1737, the Puebla Cathedral became one of the largest cathedrals in Mexico, second only to the Metropolitan Cathedral of Mexico City. Today, it houses a rich collection of religious paintings and artifacts and is one of Puebla’s most visited landmarks.

4. Iglesia de San Juan Chamula (San Juan Chamula church), Chiapas, Mexico

By Liza from Atlas Rambler Travel Guides

Exterior of Iglesia de San Juan Chamula.
Iglesia de San Juan Chamula
By Liza from Atlas Rambler Travel Guides

From the outside, you could mistake San Juan Chamula church for any other Spanish colonial church in Mexico. However, upon entering visitors witness the unique fusion of Christianity and indigenous spiritual rituals that make this church so special.

When the Spanish arrived in the area 500 years ago, they attempted to convert the local Mayan population to Christianity. Today, the form of religious worship practiced at San Juan Chamula church is a result of centuries of struggle for the local people to maintain their beliefs.

Inside the church there are no pews. The ground is blanketed in pine nettles and thousands of candles. The walls are adorned with images of Christian saints. Worshippers gather in groups, lighting candles and praying loudly. They ritualistically drink Coca Cola believing that through burping they rid themselves of evil spirits.

You cannot take photos inside making a visit to San Juan Chamula church something that needs to be seen to be believed.

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5. Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Campeche

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, also known as Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Inmaculada Concepción or simply Campeche Cathedral is a significant landmark in Campeche, Mexico. Built in the 16th century, it features a stunning façade with intricate stone carvings and towering bell towers. The serene interior features exquisite altarpieces and stained glass window, while the courtyard offers a peaceful space for prayer and meditation.
A small museum near the courtyard houses artifacts and historical relics providing insight into Campeche’s religious and cultural heritage. Find out more on a walking tour of Downtown Campeche.

6. Church of San Francisco, Mexico City

By Ashlea J Russell of She Roams About

San Francisco Church in CDMX.
San Francisco Church
Pic by Ashlea J Russell

While every Mexico City itinerary usually involves a visit to the central cathedral, most travellers overlook the Church of San Francisco, just a short walk away. 

This church is all that remains of the Convent of San Francisco, a massive 16th century complex that was once home to the first Franciscan friars sent by the Pope to bring Catholicism to Mexico. The convent was built on the site of the legendary Montezuma’s Zoo, an impressive menagerie of hundreds of animals. Now the ancient details of this quiet Methodist church serve as a reminder of a complicated time gone by and the intersection of two great empires in Mexico.

This is a work in progress list of the must-visit Mexican cathedrals. There are many that still need to be added. If you want to contribute, ping

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Pinterest images of Templo Expiatorio del Santísimo Sacramento and Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral.
Pinterest images of Inside view of Puebla Cathedral and Iglesia de San Juan Chamula.

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