Walk to your right, and you will find what remains of Templo Mayor, the temple that once dominated Mexico City, back when it was called Tenochtitlan and the natives had no idea of about the colonising force that was destined to descend upon them.
Walk straight ahead, and you will find yourself ensconced in the internal workings of this strangely powerful building. Regardless of the spiritual beliefs you hold, there's no denying the captivating magnitude of this place. More than once you will catch yourself with your mouth hanging open as you stare in wonder at the intricate carvings and colossal works of art.
A rather saucy statue at the entrance to the cathedral
To head into the belly of the beast – the catacombs that lie beneath it – will set you back just 40 pesos. For this price, you also get a guided tour, without which there are a few secrets you would never learn. However, the tour is not always open, and it can be hard to get a precise answer as to when the next one will be. So, if you arrive, and there's one about to go – consider yourself blessed and take it.
Before diving in, you will be taken past the Altar of the Kings where you will learn that the new guy who took over the carving job in 1737 wasn't so good at making realistic hands. You can see this as a blight on an otherwise stunning creation, or you can just enjoy spotting the oversized and awkward hands that were his signature.
From here, you will be led into the church's underworld – a maze constructed of the final resting places of many a devout Catholic. Photographs are forbidden in these halls. It's only when you arrive at a room directly below the Alltar of the Kings that you can resume your obsessive picture-taking (if that's your thing).
This space is guarded by two ghostly monks whose hollow eyes are always on you, no matter where you wander. Around you lie the remains of 41 Archbishops, some centuries old, others entombed as recently as 1998.
The remains of an Archbishop and one of the long catacomb hallways stretching into the darkness
As with so many places in Mexico, native beleifs and creations have been subsumed by the European-Catholic influence but are still apparent. There are some beautiful pre-Hispanic sculptures in this room. However, Jesus is the undeniable centrepiece.
If you hear strange whisperings, feel free to enjoy a delicious chill of fear as you wonder where the hushed voices are coming from. But do keep in mind, there are people walking about in the church above, and their voices travel.
Also, be sure to take a moment to stand at the dead centre of Mexico City and appreciate the vast history stretching out from all angles around you.
The dead centre of Mexico City (literally and figuratively)
this is such a fabulous cathedral! I filmed there 4 years ago, and they showed us the Aztec ruins in the cellar that were unearthed when they excavated the foundations (part of the amazing engineering feat that involved lowering one side of the cathedral so that is sinks uniformly)