The Señor de la Humildad Chapel is better known as the Manzanares Chapel. Beloved, primarily for its tiny dimensions, it’s an exquisite example of the Baroque of its time. That time though is something of a mystery.
According to legend, it’s the sole remaining of seven hermitages ordered built by Hernán Cortés himself in the middle of the 16th century. The manzanares, that is, apple orchards, from which the street takes its name, are long gone. During the 16th century, the entirely indigenous population made their living, not just from the apples, but in greeting canoes arriving from Xochimilco on the Acequia Principal. A major waterway, it was closed in the late 17th century much to the dismay of that same population. We might understand something of the character of the area from that time.
Chapel of the Thieves
With the closing of the waterway, we can only speculate that the east side of the city spiraled into a resentment that lasted fully through the end of the 20th century. The Merced neighborhood has seemingly always been the haunt of the petty thieves and sex workers. In fact, the chapel is often said to have been the place where they begged forgiveness before returning to the same occupations later that same day.
The hermitage, rebuilt as a chapel, is not noted on architectural plans of the city until after 1793. Presumably, it was during the waning years of the Baroque period that this chapel was completed, in the place of what was likely a much humbler structure.
With a rectangular floor plan and an octagonal dome, the chapel measures a mere nine meters long by four meters wide. The square bell towers, unusual in the City Center bear paired pilasters and the semicircular arched doorway. The second body features the cross relief, guarded by two kneeling angels. Above this is the octagonal chorus window, with columns on either side.
Inside the golden Baroque altarpiece just fits the 20 worshippers who will fill the chapel to capacity. There are also sculptures of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph and Jesus. The chapel, even outdoors, is always clean and well kept. This is taken care of by an order of Carmelite nuns.
Sources cited on this page:
Vagondo, Gabriel Revelo:
Vagando Con Sopitas.Com Presenta: La Capillita De Manzanares