Temple of San Gabriel Arcángel

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20th century photo by Viank Aguilera on Wikimedia Commons

A magnificent old temple to San Gabriel is still going strong.

Outside Metro Tacuba, and one of the city’s famously dark and mysteriously beautiful old churches, the Temple of San Gabriel Arcángel is still standing.

Once the main parish church for a region that included some 18 separate towns, among them San Bartolomé Naucalpan, San Lorenzo Tlaltenangom, and San Esteban Popotla, today it’s the lone cathedral representing a past that is almost entirely forgotten. Of the many peoples represented by the church, all are said to have been Otomi speakers, and they worked a very rich agricultural area that stretched well into the mountains to the north and west of today’s church.

While construction concluded around 1573, the San Gabriel Temple building has gone through major renovations both inside and out. Most importantly these took place in 1755, in 1871, and finally in the mid-1970s. The records indicate that the church has had as many as 12 side-altars, among them, altars to the Annunciation (by San Gabriel), to the Virgin of Guadalupe, to Saint Peter, to Our Lady of Sorrows, and to St. Nicholas Tolentino, one of the oldest saints venerated in the ancient town of Tacuba.

To the temple’s right, an atrium area later became the Juarez Garden, famous for dance competitions held in the kiosk, there. With the arrival of the metro in 1984, the area was almost completely wiped out, but today a significant preservation movement keeps it from succumbing to further urban encroachment.

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