Heaven's Gate Convent and Museum
San German, located on the southern side of Puerto Rico, is known for its agricultural importance in the production of products such as tobacco, fruit, coffee and sugar. It is also well noted for being home to the most popular attraction in San German, the Convento de Porta Coeli. The town was first established in 1511 but residents later relocated into the hills where they were more protected. It is here that the Porta Coeli Convent was constructed in the 17th century. Today it is the oldest church that can be found under American rule. Convento de Porta Coeli also sometimes called the Heaven's Gate Convent, as the name Porta Coeli translates as ‘Doorway to Heaven’. The Convent was built in 1609 under the supervision of a group of Dominican friars and a priest by the name of Antonio Mej’a. Later during the 18th century a church was erected next to the convent. It is one of the few churches that were used as a hotel in later years. Unfortunately by the 1900’s the building was in ruin with only the church belfry, wooden trusses and the solid outer walls remaining.
Restoration work to the Heavens’ Gate Convent started in 1960, where after the Porta Coeli Convent would be used as the new Religious Art Museum. The original three foot high walls that are one meter thick are still protecting the convent while the beautiful deep mahogany beams that were used on the original structure can be also still be seen in the museum. It is believed that the beams date back to before the convent was constructed.
The Religious Art Museum exhibits spectacular religious works of art in the form of paintings and meticulously carved wooden statues. The statues date back to both the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. There is also a wide variety of religious artifacts, different objects made from crystal and a vast range of ceramics.
It is not just the collections that are on display that make this site the most visited attraction in San German, but the history architecture and originality of the museum structure. The Convento de Porta Coeli is most certainly a sight that you don’t want to miss out on, when visiting Puerto Rico.