The Church of Santa Cruz y La Soledad (Parroquia de la Santa Cruz y Nuestra Señora de la Soledad) is at the northern (loosely defined) edge of Barrio La Merced. On a plaza of the same name, it’s the center of the old neighborhood of Coltzingo or Coltzimoó. Local historical lore holds that the neighborhood at one time was home to many carpenters and woodworkers. Thus, the dedication was to Santa Cruz, the Holy Cross. Because the church is home to a much revered life-size image of the Virgin of Solitude, it’s commonly known simply as La Soledad.
The parish began as an “Indian parish” in 1633. A few different buildings, including a hermitage consecrated in 1731, preceded this one. The present church went up between 1774 and 1787. This would have been at the beginning of the Neo-classical architectural period in New Spain. The appearance is for the most part unchanged since then although the building was enlarged at the end of the 18th century. It was thoroughly restored as a national monument in 1982.
The Neo-classical façade is clad in grey sandstone. The figures on the façade represent symbolic elements of the Passion of Christ. John the Baptist, Mary Magdalene are on the lower level with Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea above. Between them on the second level is a carved image of the Virgin of Solitude.
The interior is rectangular with three naves. Six sculpted neoclassical columns support the main nave with arches to support other parts of the building. The ceiling has barrel vaults with lunettes above the three main areas of the central nave. The dome has an octagonal floor plan. Above the presbytery there is another vault and a ceiling formed by eight small barrel vaults. Red and white mosaics cover the floor in the main nave and green and white in the presbytery.
The choir area is quite large, extending over the back of the three naves and supported by three arches. The wooden tabernacle area contains he revered image of the Virgin of Solitude. The marble altar dates from 1903, and was designed to match the pulpit and the choir balustrade. Most of the wood furnishings date to the 19th century.
The Church Today
The church also still holds extensive historical archives. Some documents date from as far back as 1633. For most of us though, it’s a rather startling, cold Neo-classical interior, impressive though as it might be. The Santa Cruz y la Soledad Church today offers frequent meals and service for some of the neighborhood’s neediest. Such events often fill the plaza out front. For all that, it’s still a well-regarded member of the community.
The plaza to the immediate north hosts a small intercity bus-terminal. Buses run to points in the south of Mexico, as far as Chiapas. Their buses are frequently visible from the main plaza in front of the church.