La Sabatina is one of those massive domed churches that’s better-than-visible from all around. Today, though, hardly anyone knows anything about it. The interior, replete with stained-glass that filter the afternoon sun, is of a particularly captivating character. The church is officially known as The Church of Nuestra Señora del Carmen, but more fondly known as La Sabatina, to those who regularly make pilgrimages to the area. Its history is a record of the 20th century, literally, set in stone.
- The first stone was laid in 1910. This was for the chapel in the garden of a Porfiriato-period home. The home was destroyed and today the original chapel serves as the medical dispensary, a prominent part of the parish’s mission. This small chapel (facing the avenue, Gral. Pedro Antonio de los Santos) was for a long time called the Sabatina Hermitage when the neighborhood was still part of Tacubaya.
- Consecrated in 1912, by 1914 the Tertiary Carmelites of Mexico had taken over. They are today called the Missionary Carmelites of Santa Teresa. They ran the church until 1924, when the beginnings of the Cristero War forced them to abandon the premises.
- In 1936, the Cuban embassy received permission to reopen the church, specifically for their own diplomatic core. Permission was granted in 1938 and the Discalced Carmelites were able to return. Just prior to this, the Vatican also authorized the acquisition of land next to the hermitage. By 1939, the archbishop formally placed the Sabatina under the control of the friars.
- In February of 1941, the Mexican Federal Government authorized the construction of the new church, the first stone of which was laid in 1942. The construction was begun with the architects Nicolás Mariscal and Armando García and finished nine years later in January of 1950.
The dramatic appearance of the church depends on multiple classical styles, primarily Renaissance and Mannerist. The main entrance is marked by Doric columns that end in a monumental semicircular arch. The first body is topped by a broken pediment, with the medallion of the order of Carmelites. The Virgin of Carmen is above in the second body, now crowned by a semicircular arch over Corinthian pilasters. A crown and a halo of light complete the gigantic entranceway.
The church has been criticized for its spare, rather Modern interior. But a step inside does nothing but reassures. It’s very much a space designed for peaceful and quiet contemplation. In 1956, the status was raised to Parish Church and in 1964 the Archbishop himself consecrated the main altar. Only in 1972, was the church finally established as a parish.