OUR LADY OF THE REMEDIES (LOS REMEDIOS), Cholula, Puebla
Any aficionado of Mexican travel books, guides or magazines would recognize this church. It is iconic! And is probably the most photographed church in the country with its glorious and dramatic backdrop of the snow-capped volcano, Popocatepetl, in the distance.
The church of Los Remedios (Our Lady of the Remedies), home to the diminutive (27 cm) statue of Our Lady of the Remedies, was built by the Spanish in 1594 and was finished in 1666.
The 1521 Conquest of Mexico by Spanish conquistador, Hernan Cortez, opened the way for the introduction of Christianity into the Aztec nation. Within a few years of the Guadalupe apparition to Juan Diego in 1531, “an explosion” of Catholic churches, monasteries, convents and schools “sprang up all over” the once-pagan country. Los Remedios was part of this “explosion.”
It is believed that the statue of Los Remedios in this church was one of an original group of statues of Our Lady which had been brought over from Spain by Hernan Cortez and accompanied him and his soldiers in the battle at Tenochtitlan (present-day Mexico City). They attributed their victory to the intercession and protection of Our Lady.
At the dawn of the 16th century Cholula “was one of ancient Mexico’s major religious centers” and was a powerful and commercial centre under the domination of the Aztecs. Hundreds of pagan temples once dominated the landscape of the city. Today the tourist can visit the Great Pyramid, Tepanapa, atop of which is found the Church of Los Remedios! This mammoth pyramid is considered the second largest pyramid in the world and was built over a 1,000 year period (roughly between 300 BC to AD 700). After the Spanish Conquest all of these temples were replaced by Christian churches.
Although the pyramid now resembles an overgrown leafy hill, one can imagine its origins as one ascends the steep staircase to the church. Those very steps which once led to the sacrificial summit of the pyramid.
The church of Los Remedios has been severely damaged by earthquakes: one on Oct. 3, 1864, almost totally destroyed the church’s structure. Over a ten year period, it was totally renovated. Yet another earthquake struck Cholula on June 15, 1999 and destroyed about 80% of its infra-structure.
Today the vividly-painted church has been beautifully renovated in the neo-classical style and is in pristine condition. Tourists marvel at the church’s dome which is adorned with Talavera tile, the signature Puebla tile which is famous throughout the world.
September 8th is the feastday of Our Lady of the Remedies. Crowds flock to the church to venerate Cholula’s most beloved image.
Pilgrims to the church are thrilled not only by the 500-year-old statue of Our Lady, but by the panoramic view of Puebla from the church’s platform. And on a clear day you can see—the glorious volcano, Popocatepetl.
“Popo” as it is known affectionately by the locals is an active volcano unlike its “slumbering companion” Iztaccihuatl, which has long been dormant and is lacking a crater. At its height of 17,802 ft. (5,426 m.) Popo is one of the highest mountains in Mexico. It has erupted at least 36 times. In 1993 it began to “rumble and quake” and spewed out “explosions of gas, ash and rocks.” It was so dangerous that 25,000 people in the vicinity had to be evacuated.
One of the great thrills of my life was to see Popo, spewing ash from it clearly visible crater! What a beautiful sight! And one I will not soon forget. My photo of this once-in-a-lifetime experience is shown below. A fitting background for the wondrous image of Our Lady of the Remedies, one of the most photographed churches in the country.