The colonial city of Antigua is home to the huge and impressive ruins of the baroque style cathedral. Formerly, the cathedral was called Catedral Primada de Santiago de los Caballeros. Nowadays, the bigger part of the cathedral remains in ruins and only a small part houses the church Parroquia de San José. For this reason the cathedral is now known as the Cathedral de San José. Destroyed many times during earthquakes, today only the ruins of the cathedral remain with an intact facade behind which you can find a church these days.
In 1545, the cathedral was constructed for the first time. However, the building was victim to many earthquakes during the following years. The last construction of the cathedral dates back to 1860, resulting in the masterpiece of Joseph de Porres. After the earthquake de San Miguel, the vaults, the arches, the dome and some parts of the facade were repaired again.
The entrance to the ruins is on the southern side of the building. When entering the cathedral, you will immediately keep quiet, fascinated by the grand air and monumentality of the building. Only the walls remain intact but they can still represent all the power and grandeur of the huge cathedral. Looking up these enormous walls will guide your view to the open, blue sky, as the cupolas, roofs and the dome were destroyed during the earthquakes.
The walk through the ruins is quiet and spiritual. You will see a fascinating interplay of the building and mother nature. You can still see the fine and elaborate decoration on columns and pillars. Flowers, plants and succulents found their way into the interior of the ruins, they creep out of the cracks in the walls or dangle from the top of the columns. You can smell the humidity of the old building mixed up with the smell of the fresh green and the sweet scent of the different flowers.
Even though most of the building is destroyed and you will even find columns lying on the floor, the ground plot of the cathedral is still visible, with the altar at the end of the central nave. Also you can dare yourself and climb down to the dark and pitch black catacombs of the cathedral. Furthermore, you will find the crypt of the historian Bernal Díaz del Castillo, who wrote about the conquest of Central America.