Ponce Cathedral – At the Heart of the Historic Zone
Located in the middle of Plaza Las Delicias, the town square in the Ponce Historic Zone, Catedral de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe has a history dating back to 1670 and is listed on the US National Register of Historic Places. Painted in gray and pale blue, its neoclassical architectural style featuring two bell towers is notably different from Puerto Rico’s other four cathedrals. The interior is predominantly colonial and Gothic in design and finished in blue and beige with colorful stained glass windows depicting religious scenes. Most often referred to simply as Ponce Cathedral, Catedral de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe is the seat of the Bishop of Ponce and the Roman Catholic Diocese of the city.
The history of Ponce Cathedral started with a small chapel built in the center of the colonial settlement in 1670. In 1692 the King of Spain, Carlos II, designated the chapel as a parish church by means of a Cédula Real, or Royal Permit. The small parish church was completely demolished in 1835 to make way for a larger church featuring two octagonal towers on the two corners of the front façade. The new church was opened in 1839. Unfortunately, this building was damaged by the 1918 Puerto Rico earthquake, with the two distinctive towers being destroyed. The main building withstood the destruction and was restored for use. In 1924, Pope Pius XI declared the church to be a cathedral. Edwin Byrne became the cathedral’s first bishop in 1925.
Between 1931 and 1937 the newly appointed cathedral was renovated to its current neoclassical style. The design for the cathedral was drawn up by Puerto Rican architect Francisco Porrata Doria (1890-1971), and included the addition of two chapels, a new roof and the construction of the two square towers seen today. The pipe organ was installed during the renovations, and was later played by renowned Puerto Rican composer Juan Morel Campos (1857-1896).
Oriented east to west, the Ponce Cathedral has Parque de Bombas, the historic firehouse, behind it to the east. The two buildings divide the large Plaza Las Delicias into two squares known as Plaza Degetau and Plaza Muñoz Rivera, both of which provide a tranquil and attractive setting for the enjoyment of the citizens of Ponce and for visitors to this charming Puerto Rican city.