Bell Towers, Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral

The towers were built between 1787 and 1791, although the base and first body of the eastern tower was built between 1642 and 1672. The works were in charge of the architect José Damián Ortiz de Castro. The towers of the cathedral have a height of between 64 and 67 meters whose interior access is made through ellipsoidal stairs built in wood. The top of the towers is bell-shaped, built with tezontle rock from Chiluca. Both towers are crowned by a metal cross on a metal sphere. The sphere of the eastern tower was used as a time capsuleIn 2007, during the restoration works of the cathedral, a lead box with religious medals, coins of the time, a reliquary, a palm cross, various images of saints and prayers and authorized testimonies were discovered inside by the cabildo of the cathedral. Under the sphere, in the highest part of the tower, was the inscription “May 14, 1791. Tibursio Cano” carved in the stone. The cross of the east tower fell during the earthquake of September 19, 2017.

The bell towers are the work of Xalapan artist José Damián Ortiz de Castro. They are capped with bell-shaped roofs made of tezontle covered in chiluca, a white stone. Ortiz de Castro was in charge of the cathedral’s construction in the latter half of the 18th century until he died, unexpectedly. Manuel Tolsá of Valencia, who had built other notable buildings in Mexico City, was hired to finish the cathedral. At this point, the cathedral had already been 240 years in the making. He added the neo-Classic structure housing the clock, the statues of the three theological virtues (Faith, Hope, and Charity), the high balustrade surrounding the building, and the dome that rises over the transept.

The cathedral has 25 bells—eighteen hang in the east bell tower and seven in the west tower. The largest bell is named the Santa Maria de Guadalupe and weighs around 13,000 kilograms (29,000 lb). Other major bells are named the Doña Maria, which weighs 6,900 kilograms (15,200 lb), and La Ronca (“the hoarse one”), named so because of its harsh tone. Doña Maria and La Ronca were placed in 1653 while the largest bell was placed later in 1793.

The statues in the west tower are the work of José Zacarías Cora and represent Pope Gregory VII, Saint Augustine, Leander of Seville, St. Fulgentius of Écija, St.Francis Xavier, and Saint Barbara. The statues in the east tower are by Santiago Cristóbal Sandoval and depict Emilio, Rose of Lima, Mary (mother of Jesus), Ambrogio, Jerome, Philip of Jesus, Hippolytus of Rome, and Isidore the Laborer.

In 1947, a novice bell ringer died in an accident when he tried to move one of the bells while standing under it. The bell swung back and hit him in the head, killing him instantly. The bell was then “punished” by removing the clapper. In the following years, the bell was known as la castigada (“the punished one”), or la muda (“the mute one”). In 2000, the clapper was reinstalled in the bell.

In October 2007, a time capsule was found inside the stone ball base of a cross, in the southern bell tower of the cathedral. It was placed in 1742, supposedly to protect the building from harm. The lead box was filled with religious artifacts, coins and parchments and hidden in a hollow stone ball. The ball was marked with the date of 14 May 1791, when the building’s topmost stone was laid. A new time capsule will be placed in the stone ball when it is closed again.

Each tower has eight representative sculptures of protective saints of the city, being four of doctors of the Western Church and the other four of doctors of the Church in Spain. The sculptures of the western tower are the work of José Zacarías Cora and represent Gregorio Magno, Agustín de Hipona, Leandro de Sevilla, Fulgencio de Cartagena, San Francisco Javier and Santa Bárbara. On the other hand, those of the eastern tower were sculpted by Santiago Cristóbal de Sandoval and represent Saint Ambrose, Saint Jerome,Saint Rose of Lima, Saint Mary, Saint Philip of Jesus, Saint Hippolytus and Saint Isidro Labrador.

The two towers have space to house 56 bells, although, today there are 35, 25 being located in the western tower and 10 in the eastern. The largest bell of all has the name “Santa María de Guadalupe”, was founded by Salvador de la Vega in 1791 and placed in 1793, weighs about thirteen tons. The oldest bell was cast in 1578, and is known as “Santa María de la Asunción” or “Doña María”, it weighs approximately 7 tons and was placed in 1653, as well as “La Ronca”, well known as his grave tone The most modern is from 2002, was placed on the occasion of the canonization of Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin and was blessed by Pope John Paul II.

The bells of the cathedral have chimed in important moments in the history of Mexico, thus, they summoned the town to the demise of El Parián in 1682, they chimed in the coronation of Emperor Agustín de Iturbide and in his death and burial, they summoned the people to the defense of the city before the US invasion the 14 of September of 1847 and marked the beginning of the festivities of the centenary of national independence on September 15 of 1910 and the beginning of the festivities of the Bicentennial of national Independence on 15 September 2010. They ring in their entirety every year at the Corpus Chisti party, on the night of September 15, on Christmas night, at the New Year’s Mass and at Easter Mass.

Bells of the Cathedral of Mexico
The history of the bells of the Cathedral of Mexico is extremely interesting. They seem to be beings endowed with life, delicate in their bodies that are exposed to temperature changes that alter their constitution, especially when it has not been well taken care of since they were born. Each bell has its name. Each bell has its history. There are some veterans who come from the very distant times, from that very poor cathedral that had to give up the post, humbly, torn from diseases and years, when the new factory rose to its side, proud but benevolent.

A whole book could be written about these bells. There are some more noble than the others and whose history we can make in detail, but mostly, anonymous beings whose father himself did not dare to stamp his name on them, go unnoticed and most often ignored. We do not know the end of the first bell in our Cathedral, but we do know its noble origin: it was cast from a cannon that Hernán Cortés had given up for it and the operation was carried out in the houses that occupied the corner of the streets called currently Emiliano Zapata and Mr. Verdad, where the archbishop’s houses were later. Over time other bells were melting for the temple itself, some of which we can record when talking about those of the new monument.

Once the first body of the tower on the east side was finished, the viceroy thought it was necessary to place the bells, even before the vault that was going to cover that first body was closed. It was the Duke of Albuquerque who first placed the bells that still exist in our Cathedral.

A doubtful point in the history of our great temple is discovered when studying this matter. Indeed, it is said that eight bells were preserved in the bell tower of the old church; However, this church had been demolished since 1626. Is it possible that only the bell tower has been preserved to keep the bells? The archives of the Cathedral testify and they surely take their Moroccan data. Said author affirms that the viceroy, knowing the difficulty of the work involved in lowering the bells of the old tower, moving them near the new building and uploading them to where they were to stay, summoned various art masters to solve the problem. He says that five projects were presented: one by Fray Diego Rodríguez, mercedario; another from a Mr. Murillo; the next one was due to Captain Navarro; A man from the Roman nation presented his and, in addition, Melchor Pérez de Soto, the cathedral’s eldest teacher, also made his plan.

Curious it is to observe that Melchor Pérez, absorbed in his astrologies and in his old books, did not obtain approval for his project, but that of Friar Aryan Friar was adopted. The necessary devices were made for the maneuver, in whose manufacture it took twenty-four days from March 1, 1654, and on Tuesday 24 of the same the main bell called “Doña María” was lowered and weighed four hundred and forty quintals. This bell whose real name was “Santa María de la Asunción”, but which was named chastically by the Doña María people, was founded in 1578 by the brothers Simón and Juan Buenaventura, as recorded in the Cabildo book of August 5 and 12 and December 6, 1577. As this bell still exists in our Cathedral and is undoubtedly one of the most precious jewels, it is convenient to give allusive data that we have. Two inscriptions can still be read on it: “Regi saeculorum immortali, et invisibilisoli Deo honor et gloria in saecula. A-3. JHS. MAR.-D. Martin Enrrivio (sic) of Almanza novae Hispaniae Pro = rege meritissimo et optimo Principe hoc ab aliis frustra temtatum opus. Simon fecit me 1578. ”

On March 25 of the same year she was transferred to near the new tower; on the 26th another median was lowered with which the curfew was touched. This bell was called “Santa María de los Ángeles”, was founded by Hernán Sánchez in 1616 and weighs eighty arrobas. Later another bell was lowered because of its grave and solemn sound it was called “La Ronca.” In all these operations the viceroy was present; also was Palm Sunday (March 29) in which, after the trades, the bell was raised to its site. The duke went up to the tower accompanied by the secular and ecclesiastical Cabildos and other people and when they started to climb the bell they became rogativas in all the churches and the viceroy did not go down until he saw it placed. On Palm Sunday, the bell of the curfew was raised and on Monday 30 the remaining so that all the eight were played at the prayer of the night.

Such bells were not enough for the tower, whose first body had only twenty bells; then the authorities agreed that certain towns whose inhabitants had come to less, ceded to the cathedral some bells that no longer served in the old convent churches. You can know the relationship of these bells by Guijo’s newspaper. Marroqui also makes a list of them: the first one comes from the town of Jiquipilco, whose conduction was paid by the Cathedral, and in exchange they were given a white lama compound composed of chasuble, dalmatics and layers, quite appreciable. On April 5 of the same year of 1654 the Indians of the town of Hueyapan brought a large bell in an ox-drawn carriage. It was paid in money and its transportation cost nine hundred pesos; It was placed on the same day. Three other small bells were raised on Friday 24 of the same month, obtained from various villages by order of the viceroy.

In the month of November of the same year five more bells were brought: a wine from the convent of Yecapixtla, in the State of Morelos, famous construction of Augustinian friars that still amazes by its grandeur and ogival reminiscences. The Indians asked for her six thousand pesos, but since it was the authority who bought, they only gave them six hundred. On the 7th they brought another from Ozumba, in which a Franciscan convent is admired; He was immediately taken to the bell tower. The third bell came from Atzcapotzalco, from the Dominican convent that still exists in that population. Big bell, his ascent to the tower was witnessed by the viceroy himself. The fourth bell arrived on the 12th; it came from Tlalnepantla, from the Franciscan convent still seen there, and the last one from the Augustinian convent of Tlayacapan, State of Morelos. The viceroy himself received both and wanted to see how they went up to their places. The one in Tlayacapan was cracked and the friars took it to re-melt it, but we don’t know if it has already melted again and returned to Mexico.

In 1655 four more bells were placed in the tower, which the viceroy told the Court writing about it, in addition to what he had done in the temple vaults, of the twenty-one bells he had placed in the tower.

Related Post

The Cathedral continued for long years having only the first body of the eastern tower, the old tower that was called. When, at the end of the 18th century, as we have seen, the conclusion of the façade and towers of our maximum temple began and was completed, it was necessary to make new bells for the second body of the old tower and for the complete new tower. You can recompose the history of these new bells in detail, thanks to the accounts that the commissioners of the Cathedral Council gave about such an important material.

The most important bells of the new tower are the ones we mentioned below and which were specially cast for this tower.

It was thought by the Cabildo of the cathedral that a large bell should be made that weighed at least four hundred quintals for that new tower. When the master of the work, José Damián Ortiz de Castro, was consulted, it was of the opinion that it was preferable to make several smaller bells… Don Salvador de la Vega, who worked in the Royal Mint and in the powder mill, was offered to melt them.. The directors of both institutions certified Vega’s ability and he made a concert deed to melt the bells, forcing himself that if they were not satisfied, as well in their quality as in their sound, he would melt them again at his expense.

The file of the cathedral file provides precious details about the matter and up to two drawings. One is reproduced recorded in the present work; one of the furnace that was built for the foundry and another of the main bell Santa María de Guadalupe, with its cut. It can be seen in the second of these until the special nomenclature that each part of the bell has, in the annotations that appear there.

Undoubtedly, the chronicler Sedano knew some of the cited data, since he gives enough details about the matter. The bell, like its two companions that we studied next, were cast in Las Lomas and. surface features the Guadalupana image in relief. Once concluded, as well as their two companions, they were suspended on the same site of the foundry and examined by commissioners of the Cabildo, who gave satisfactory opinions. They are so curious, they look at them until the musical gradation of the sound produced by the bells.

Once the main bell was completed, it was carefully transferred to the Cathedral at the risk and expense of the founder of La Vega itself. On March 8, 1792, the Illustrious Lord Núñez de Haro y Peralta consecrated it at the foot of the tower; on the 13th of the same March it was raised to the first body of the tower and on April 12 the following: “It was climbed with a machine of twenty-four bronze pulleys and four winches or ropes of lechuguilla and two cranes whose axes the winches were secured; the cranes moved them around two men who walked inside each one of them, and the ease with which it went up and down the times that experience was made, and when it was climbed without noise or noise, and what is more, without the danger of the operators. ”Mr. J. Damián Ortiz, a native of the Villa de Jalapa, directed the climb, Architecture master of the Holy Cathedral Church for the factory of the towers.

The bell was premiered on Corpus Day, June 7, 1792 at the touch of rising at the mass. ” Sedano gives the following measures for this bell: high, three rods a third; circumference, ten rods; diameter, three ten inch rods; the clapper measures two and a half rods and weighs twenty two arrobas and nineteen pounds; it is of iron, and on Wednesday of ash of 1850 calling sermon fell, although fortunately it did not cause misfortunes.

The same architect Salvador de la Vega fused two smaller bells for the same tower. The first one was called Los Santos Ángeles Custodios and not the Holy Guardian Angel, as Sedano calls it. It weighs one hundred forty-nine quintals; It was consecrated on the same site of the foundry by the most illustrious Dr. Don Gregario de Omaña, Bishop of Oaxaca, on March 19, 1793. It was climbed to the tower on March 9 of the same year with the same rig that had been used for the bell studied previously and its premiere took place on March 27, after the darkness of Holy Wednesday, with the touch of prayer and ringing.

The third bell was cast by Salvador de la Vega himself, in 1791, and his name is Jesus; It is a shear that weighs thirty-four quintals and is, consequently, the largest of all that exist in the cathedral. It was consecrated and placed in the main bell tower of the tower that sees the main square.

The other bells that decorate the cathedral were reviewed in the aforementioned file and are the ones we study below. They existed in 1796.

Santiago Apostle. Bell fused by Bartolomé Espinosa, on May 25, 1784. It was climbed the following June 27 and was placed in the low bell tower on the right side of Doña María. It was released on the 28th of the same month, on the eve of the festival of San Pedro. It weighs one hundred and four arrobas.
Bell called Saint Augustine. Its author and weight are unknown; It is known that it was cast in 1684 and is placed on the left side.
Esquilón named La Purísima Concepción. It was cast by Bartholomew Espinosa in 1767 and placed in the high bell tower on the right side. It weighs seventy arrobas.
Shearing called Santo Ángel Custodio. Cast by Espinosa himself, on June 2, 1784. It was placed on the 27th of the same month in the high bell tower on the left side and premiered on July 17 of the same year. It weighs eighty-four arrobas.
Bell called San Pedro and San Pablo. It was cast by José Contreras, in Atzcapotzalco, on February 17, 1752. Its metal was made in the Royal Mint by the essayist Don Manuel de León, refining the copper until it was placed at the point of linking silver. The most illustrious Mr. Rubio y Salinas consecrated her on March 12 of the same year and on the 18th she was taken to the main bell tower facing west. Its premiere took place on the 22nd of the same month. It weighs one hundred thirty-seven quintals.
Bell called San Gregorio. Founded in 1707 by Manuel López. It is located in the left bell and weighs ninety arrobas.
Shearing called San Paulino Obispo. Its author is not known or what weighs, but only that it was cast in 1788. It is located in the high bell tower on the right, to the east.
Esquilón called San Juan Bautista and San Juan Evangelista. He was the eldest of the Cathedral, before melting the Jesus of which we have spoken. He has a very loud voice; It was founded by Juan Soriano in 1751. It was consecrated by the most illustrious Mr. Rubio y Salinas and is located in the left bell tower. It weighs ninety arrobas.
Bell called Lord St. Joseph. It is placed in the main arch of the side that sees the Infants College. The author is not known or the year in which it was cast, but by its form it seems to be contemporary of Doña María. It weighs ninety quintals and holds inscriptions that have become illegible over time.
Bell called Our Lady of Carmen. Founded in 1746, it is not known by whom. It is located in the lower bell on the right to the same side as the previous one and weighs twenty two arrobas.
Our Lady of Mercy, bell cast by Espinosa himself that we have spoken before, in 1787. It is in a bell tower similar to the one above and weighs sixteen arrobas.
Our Lady of Guadalupe. The author is unknown, but it was cast in 1654 and is placed in the same bell tower as the previous one. This, as well as that of Piedad and Carmen, are multiple. It weighs twelve arrobas.
Bell called Lord St. Joseph. It is tiple and was cast in 1757 with the weight of ten arrobas, without knowing who made it.
Bell called Santa Barbara, also tiple. Made in 1731 and placed with the previous one in the upper right bell tower. Your weight is ignored.
Santo Domingo de Guzmán bell, tiple, consecrated and placed in the bell on the left side, weighing eighteen arrobas.
Bell called San Rafael Arcángel. It was founded by Juan Soriano in 1745 and was placed in the main bell tower that overlooks the square. This bell served for the clock and weighs one hundred and sixty arrobas.
Bell called San Miguel Arcángel. It was founded in 1658, we don’t know by whom. It is placed in the same main bell that gives the quarters of the clock. Your weight is unknown.
Bell called Santa Barbara. Founded in 1589, without author’s name. It was in the tower of the old church and is located in the lower bell tower on the right. We do not know your weight.
Lord St. Joseph Bell cast in 1658, it is not known by whom. It weighs fifty arrobas and is on the left side.
Shearing called San Joaquin and Santa Ana, founded in Tacubaya by Bartolomé and Anastasio Murillo, in 1766. It is located in the upper right bell tower and weighs sixty arrobas.
Shearing called Mr. San Miguel, made in 1684 by Mr. Parra. It is in the left bell tower and weighs sixty arrobas.

Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary into Heavens (Spanish: Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de la Santísima Virgen María a los cielos) is the seat of the Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico. It is situated atop the former Aztec sacred precinct near the Templo Mayor on the northern side of the Plaza de la Constitución (Zócalo) in Downtown Mexico City. The cathedral was built in sections from 1573 to 1813 around the original church that was constructed soon after the Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlan, eventually replacing it entirely. Spanish architect Claudio de Arciniega planned the construction, drawing inspiration from Gothic cathedrals in Spain.

Due to the long time it took to build it, just under 250 years, virtually all the main architects, painters, sculptors, gilding masters and other plastic artists of the viceroyalty worked at some point in the construction of the enclosure. This same condition, that of its extensive period of construction, allowed the integration into it of the various architectural styles that were in force and in vogue in those centuries: Gothic, Baroque, Churrigueresque, Neoclassical, among others. Same situation experienced different ornaments, paintings, sculptures and furniture in the interior.

Its realization meant a point of social cohesion, because it involved the same ecclesiastical authorities, government authorities, different religious brotherhoods as many generations of social groups of all classes.

It is also, as a consequence of the influence of the Catholic Church on public life, that the building was intertwined with events of historical significance for the societies of New Spain and independent Mexico. To mention a few, there are the coronation of Agustín de Iturbide and Ana María Huarte as emperors of Mexico by the President of the Congress; the preservation of the funeral remains of the aforementioned monarch; burial until 1925 of several of the independence heroes such as Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla and José María Morelos; the disputes between liberals and conservatives caused by the separation of the church and the state in the Reform; the closure of the building in the days of the Cristero War; the celebrations of the bicentennial of independence, among others.

The cathedral faces south. The approximate measurements of this church are 59 metres (194 ft) wide by 128 metres (420 ft) long and a height of 67 metres (220 ft) to the tip of the towers. It consists of two bell towers, a central dome, three main portals. It has four façades which contain portals flanked with columns and statues. It has five naves consisting of 51 vaults, 74 arches and 40 columns. The two bell towers contain a total of 25 bells.

The tabernacle, adjacent to the cathedral, contains the baptistery and serves to register the parishioners. There are five large, ornate altars, a sacristy, a choir, a choir area, a corridor and a capitulary room. Fourteen of the cathedral’s sixteen chapels are open to the public. Each chapel is dedicated to a different saint or saints, and each was sponsored by a religious guild. The chapels contain ornate altars, altarpieces, retablos, paintings, furniture and sculptures. The cathedral is home to two of the largest 18th-century organs in the Americas. There is a crypt underneath the cathedral that holds the remains of many former archbishops. The cathedral has approximately 150 windows.

Over the centuries, the cathedral has suffered damage. A fire in 1967 destroyed a significant part of the cathedral’s interior. The restoration work that followed uncovered a number of important documents and artwork that had previously been hidden. Although a solid foundation was built for the cathedral, the soft clay soil it is built on has been a threat to its structural integrity. Dropping water tables and accelerated sinking caused the structure to be added to the World Monuments Fund list of the 100 Most Endangered Sites. Restoration work beginning in the 1990s stabilized the cathedral and it was removed from the endangered list in 2000.