The Basilica Belltower is actually a carillon. It has 48 cast-bronze bells which will, depending on the time of day, play melodies. That’s still just the beginning of the story.
This belltower was completed in 1991. It was the closing work of major remodeling work that had lasted some 3 years prior. The tower was designed by the architect, Pedro Ramírez Vázquez who’d completed the New Basilica building in 1976. He’s best known in Mexico City for designing the Anthropology Museum but his work, like his renown, is everywhere. His purpose here was to show the many ways that time is measured and reflected. On the front a civil clock, and an astrolabe. On the right side, a sundial leans up toward the sun. On the left is an Aztec clock, which, based on lunar observations, establish seasons of harvest and sowing in 18 months of 20 days.
At 23 meters tall, the tower is completed in the front by a circular cyclo-rama that displays the story of the apparitions of the Virgin. Robotic figures of Juan Diego, Fray Juan de Zumárraga, and Juan Bernardino, plus the doors and lighting, are all put in motion by a complex control system made in Holland.
Dominating the contemplative Plaza Mariana is not an easy task to pull off. The Basilica Belltower seems to do it with a curious mix of thoughtful mid-century Modernism, and late-century multi-culturalism.