Santo Tomás Actipan was one of the ten original villages of Mexico City’s Benito Juárez alcaldía. Today it’s almost exclusively remembered in this small chapel. The neighborhood retains the name, but the pressure from development, especially from the Del Valle neighborhoods to the immediate north mean it would be lost. But for this Chapel.
Actipan is believed to have been settled already during the time of Teotihuacan (ca. 200 – 800 CE) but at some point it became an entirely Mexica village. Along with Atoyac and Mixcoac, it fell under Coyoacán administration early in the colonial period. The town maintained its presence on the banks of the Churubusco and Mixcoac and so was often subject to flooding. The Nauhatl name means literally, “on the water.” For a largely agricultural community, of course this had its advantages.
By the latter half of the 19th century, Actipan would be subdivided. A 1903 law made it part of the town of Mixcoac to the west. All of the haciendas, ranches, and communally-held lands were divided by 1910. This was the same year that the streets were numbered, and many were paved for the first time.
The Santo Tomás de Aquino chapel is today administered by the Church of the Divine Providence, just a few blocks to the east. The chapel here has been renovated multiple times over the centuries, but was once the principle church of the town of Actipan. The sacristy, for example, was built as an extension in the 20th century. The figure in the niche above the main entrance is the Virgin of Guadalupe.
The bell tower is of two bodies, the first is octagonal. The architectural plan is of a single nave. The choir has a wrought iron railing with wooden handrails. The octagonal apse holds a Neo Classical altar, and the central niche is flanked by fluted pilasters. Many of the inside paintings are of very high quality.
But people often visit for the atrium, which offers a small garden in an otherwise very urban area.