Catedral de Santiago (Santiago Cathedral), Antigua, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Guatemala, Central America

Wendy Connett/Robert Harding

Catedral de Santiago


Antigua's cathedral was begun in 1545, wrecked by the quake of 1773, and only partially rebuilt over the next century. The present sliver of a church – the parish of San José – occupies only the entrance hall of the original edifice. Behind it are the roofless ruins of the main part of the cathedral, which are entered from 5a Calle Oriente.

The ruin is a haunting place, with massive chunks of pillars strewn beneath sweeping brick archways and vegetation sprouting from cracks in the walls. Reproductions of the intricate plasterwork figures and moldings between the arches seem all that more impressive against the ruined backdrop. Behind the main altar, steps lead down to a former crypt, now serving as a chapel, with a smoke-blackened Christ.

The main part of the cathedral was built in the 17th century by Joseph de Porres, an architect of African-Maya descent.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Antigua attractions

1. Parque Central

0.05 MILES

Surrounded by superb colonial structures, this broad and beautiful plaza is the gathering place for antigüeños and visitors alike – a fine, verdant place…

2. Palacio del Ayuntamiento

0.06 MILES

This double-decker structure on the north side of the park dates from the 18th century. Besides town offices, the palace houses the Museo del Libro…

3. Palacio de los Capitanes Generales

0.06 MILES

Dating from 1549, the palace was colonial headquarters for all of Central America, from Chiapas to Costa Rica, until the capital was relocated in 1776…

4. Museo del Libro Antiguo

0.06 MILES

The fascinating Museo del Libro Antiguo showcases the greatest hits of the early days of Guatemalan printing, plus a replica of Guatemala's first printing…

5. Choco Museo

0.12 MILES

It was the Maya who discovered the culinary uses of the cacao bean, which later became a form of currency for the Aztec empire. These are a few of the…

6. Iglesia El Carmen

0.15 MILES

The church is not open to the public, but the partially destroyed facade with its multiple carved columns is a marvel. What we see today is what's left of…

7. Iglesia y Convento de Santa Clara

0.17 MILES

Established by sisters from Puebla, Mexico, Santa Clara was inaugurated in 1734, destroyed four decades later by the great quake and abandoned…