The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Mazatlan is a gorgeous building, not unlike many similar cathedrals around the world – and especially around Latin America.
Apart from the Star of David stained-glass windows. But more on that later.
Religion, and especially Roman Catholicism, has played an integral part in the life of Mexico.
The Spanish explorers and conquerors who spread across the Americas did so largely in the name of the church. It could be argued that other colonisers like the Dutch and the English did so primarily in the name of money or the crown – but that’s an argument for another day.
But wherever the Spanish invaders went, they took the church with them .. and there are some truly spectacular edifices left in their wake, like the cathedrals that dominate many towns.
This particular one was built in a blend of styles – part Gothic and part Moorish. It has one of the last examples of a Gallery in a cathedral .. this balcony above the church was common in the 16th to 18th centuries, but by the time the Cathedral Basilica de la Inmaculada Concepcion was started in 1856, they were falling out of favour. I’m told its similar to one in Toledo, Spain (hmm … have to add that to the bucket list). It does, however, have some unique features.
Much of the following comes from information relayed to us by one of the 70 or so English-speaking volunteers who guide cruise-ship passengers around the town – and so you have to take it with a grain of salt .. but its a lovely story, anyway.
The construction of the church was apparently disrupted a number of times by money troubles. Mazatlan, like many other parts of Mexico, is only moderately prosperous, and the cash-flow of wealthy patrons would ebb and flow – and hence so would the construction of the church.
In the end, the story goes, the church was at risk of being abandoned incomplete 40 years after construction began – because the money had run out.
So a couple of local Jewish families stepped forward with the cash because the building was simply too important to the city to let something silly like religion get in the way 🙂
They asked to remain anonymous, my guide told me, and so the church fathers had 48 Star-Of-David stained-glass windows installed to honour their benefactors. You’ll see one of them directly behind the chandelier in our picture – and there are dozens more around the Gallery.
Oh – that’s not the only multi-faith aspect to the cathedral .. it is actually reportedly built on the site of an ancient temple (The Totorames culture had died out 200 years before the Spaniards even arrived – and they left no ‘grand works’ – but local legend says there was a temple here…)
And one other unique feature of the cathedral’s construction – again, caused by money troubles.
There are two spires to the cathedral … and one is slightly shorter than the other.
Again, the story goes that the builder got into a dispute with officials (again, over money) and was ordered to build the towers for less money than had been agreed upon.
So he did. But made one just a bit shorter than the other, a sort of architectural ‘up yours’ 🙂