The Regina Coeli Church & Convent mostly comes to attention because of the temple’s prominent location on the western end of pedestrian-friendly Calle Regina. The temple is next to the contemporary Concepción Béistegui Hospital. It had been part of the convent founded in the late 16th century. The smaller of the two entranceway facades dates from that long ago.
- Remember, in Mexico City, as in much of New Spain, Convent temples intended for nuns are identifiable by their double-entryways, usually leading into the side of the nave.
The Convent was the second founded by nuns of the Order of the Purísima y Limpia Concepción. This one was founded in 1553 and preceded by the Immaculate Conception Church & Convent at Cuepopan, founded in 1540. Built on some 11,000 square meters, ten sisters moved from therein 1573.
- The Latin phrase Regina Coeli means Queen of Heaven, and thus the Convent opened. The street is named for the convent.
- An early temple here was dedicated 1656. This was rebuilt and again re-dedicated in 1731.
- The west façade was completed by Cristóbal de Medina Vargas in the 1660s.
- Inside, the Chapel of the Medina Picazo family recalls the sister, Isabel María del Señor San José who lived at the convent. She died in 1654, and her cell was left uninhabited. Her own parents died just a short time later. In 1731, Buenaventura de Medina, her brother, ordered the construction of a chapel dedicated to the Immaculate Conception within the cell where his sister had lived. This was dedicated 1733.
- The descendants of the same Medina family then had the “cells of the chaplains” built. This was a small monastery within the great convent. Decoration of the temple was finished in 1781, in a sober baroque style.
The convent continued to function until 1863, when the nuns were forced to abandon it. It was used as a barracks until 1871 when it was reopened as a church.
In front of the temple, the plaza has always been a popular City square. This was restored after centuries beginning in 1967 when it was closed to vehicular traffic. More recent restorations have recovered the Patio de los Confesionarios, and the lower choir of the Medina Picazo Chapel. But the Regina Coeli Church still most stands out for the striking Baroque altarpiece. The interior is a magnificent tribute to another age.