The Santo Domingo Temple, and the Parroquia de la Purificación de Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria was once the most important church and monastery in Tacubaya. The only 16th-century Dominican monastery remaining in the City, today, with the Alameda de Tacubaya directly across the street, it’s known as a backdrop of green in one of Tacubaya’s busiest areas.
The date of 1590 is inscribed within its walls. In fact, the site is believed to have been occupied by the Dominicans since at least 1556. The arches are inscribed with the names of some of the peoples who built the church. Originally dedicated to Nuestra Señora de la Purificación, the feast day was to be that of Candelaria, and the church is still best known as the Candelaria parish church.
In fact, the town of Tacubaya was already important long before the arrival of the Spanish. The important water sources here made it an important center for trade. The current church, old as it is, is believed to have been built on top of a shrine dedicated to Cihuacóatl, an ancient goddess of midwives.
- The Legend of Calle de las Ánimas.
- The south side of the church atrium was long called the Calle de las Ánimas. Today, it’s called Mártires de la Conquista. According to legend, after eight o’clock, nearly every night, a group of dimly lit clouds would rise and fall over the street. These would change color, shape, and size. Nearly always though, they took the forms of human skeletons emitting horrible cries and screams. This would nearly always set off the neighborhood dogs. And just about everyone along the street would hole up in their homes. The ghosts may have been victims of the Inquisition who’d fled to the Tacubaya hill neighborhoods. The Dominicans are said to have performed exorcisms over the years. Some say they washed the entire street in holy water.
Still most famous for the atrium, unusual for the well-aged ash trees, the church opens on the south side with a pilgrims’ entrance with three arches. The main, west-facing entrance is a simple two-bodied entrance way. These façades are the only remaining parts of the original 16th century building.
The interior lost its baroque altars probably by the 19th century. Three side chapels remain. The two-story cloister attached once held the quarters for the Dominican friars. The quarried stone arches, four semicircular arches on each side on the first level, and carpanel-type arches on the second, are supported by Tuscan columns. These are frequently found in Dominican convents and show plenty of original details and exquisite carvings.
The main altar holds a painting of the Virgin who arrives at the temple to be purified forty days after giving birth. There is also a wood sculpture from the 18th century representing the Virgin carrying the Child Jesus in her right arm.
Buried inside is María Inés de Jáuregui, who witnessed, together with her 13-year-old daughter Pilar, the arrest of her husband, the Viceroy José de Iturrigaray in 1808. He was considered a traitor for his participation in the 1808 movement during the brief reign of José Bonaparte in Spain.