The Capilla Británica is the chapel of the first English cemetery in Mexico. Today it’s on the grounds of the Juan Ruíz de Alarcón Cultural Center. The theater of the same center was designed by Architect Orso Núñez Ruiz Velasco, as a professional theater with a capacity is for 430 spectators.
- Juan Ruíz de Alarcón, (1581 – 1639) was a writer of the Golden Age of Spanish theater and literature. Born in Taxco, Guerrero also later renamed in his honor, he’s best remembered for comedies like the La verdad sospechosa (The Suspect Truth), today considered a masterpiece of Latin American Baroque theater.
In the early 19th century, soon after Mexican independence, Great Britain formally recognized Mexico as an independent country. Investing heavily in Mexican mining, textiles, paper, credit, among many other industries, they soon came to need a cemetery for British nationals fallen in Mexico.
The British Cemetery became “English territory” in 1824, with an administrator directly appointed by the British crown. The chapel was part of the cemetery just off the Mexico-Tacuba road.
The Chapel Building
A baroque style building of gray quarry stone and red tezontle, it’s built in the basic Roman cross form, oriented towards the four cardinal points. The names of the architects, artists, and sculptors of the altarpiece are unknown.
The main entry contains an oculus to illuminate the interior through a stained glass window symbolizing the forces of nature. The property ceased to function as a cemetery due to lack of space in 1926.
By the early 1970s, the British government returned the land and the chapel to the Mexican government. The 1976 construction of the Circuito Interior highway then took another part of the old cemetery. Since 1980 the British Chapel has been part of the Juan Ruíz de Alarcón cultural complex which has been very successful in re-presenting the cemetery, chapel, and grounds, along with the theater to an appreciative public.