San Juan Cathedral – A Historic Treasure Trove
Situated in Cristo Street in San Juan, the San Juan Cathedral is a fascinating architectural wonder of great religious importance to people in the area. Also known as Catedral de San Juan Bautista, the church stands before the Plazuela de Las Monjas. This attraction in Puerto Rico is both religiously and historically interesting. Why not visit and find out why for yourself?
Alonso Manso, a bishop in San Juan, was responsible for the construction of the San Juan Cathedral in 1521. Thus it is one of the city’s oldest structures. The church was built with wooden walls and a thatch roof. A hurricane caused extensive damage to the building in October of 1526. Much of what you see today began its construction in 1540. Lack of funds as well as a variety of disasters meant that progress on the church was slow. Over time it grew into a Gothic styled stone structure. In 1598 the British Navy, under the direction of the Earl of Cumberland raided the cathedral of San Juan, removing all valuable objects. Disaster struck again in 1615 when another hurricane completely removed the roof.
Extensive restorations of the San Juan Cathedral took place during 1917 although the façade was actually added in the 1800s. Despite the passing of time and the many difficulties faced by the church, it has retained its medieval feel. This is particularly evident in the vaulted tower of the cathedral. It is believed by many to be Puerto Rico’s greatest religious site.
In the early 1900s the body of Ponce de León, who established San Juan, was moved from Iglesia de San José and brought to Cathedral of San Juan Bautista. His body was placed in a marble tomb near to the churches transept. Also in the vault are the remains of St. Pio who was mummified in wax. This ancient Roman martyr was placed in a glass box after mummification and has been at the cathedral since 1862. There are many brightly colored statues in the cathedral of San Juan. One statue shows Mary impaled by four swords. Much was lost when the cathedral was looted, but visitors can still marvel at the stunning stained-glass windows.
Religious services still take place at Cathedral of San Juan Bautista. Visitors can tour the intriguing structure daily between 8:30 am and 4:00 pm.