San Juan’s 16th century churches were first built shortly after Ponce de Leon arrived.
While we await news from Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, we pray for the people of Puerto Rico, hoping as well that these pieces of Christian and architectural heritage were spared the worst.
1. Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, San Juan (1521): First constructed out of wood and a thatched roof, the original Church of San Juan was seriously damaged by a hurricane in 1526. Much of the Gothic-style building that we see today was built in 1540. The cathedral contains the tomb of Ponce de León and a shrine to Blessed Carlos Manuel Rodríguez Santiago, the first Puerto Rican and the first Caribbean-born layperson in history to be beatified. Daily Mass is held in the cathedral.
2. Church of San Jose, San Juan (1532): Built by Dominican friars as part of their Saint Thomas Aquinas monastery, this church, like the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, is located in Old San Juan. Ponce de León was originally buried in the crypt of the church from 1559 to 1836, when his remains were exhumed and transferred to the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista. The Gothic church was named one of the “11 Most Endangered Historic Places” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2013, which led to the funding of a restoration project for the church.
3. Porta Coeli Church, San German(1609): Located in Puerto Rico’s second-oldest city, in the southwestern part of the island, the Porta Coeli (Doorway to Heaven) Church was built by the Dominican order as part of the Covent of Porta Coeli. Today only a small part of the original building remains and is being used as a museum of religious art featuring treasures dating back to the 16th century.
Read more: The 15 oldest Catholic churches in America
Since you are here…
…we’d like to have one more word with you. We are excited to report that Aleteia’s readership is growing at a rapid rate, world-wide! Our team proves its mission every day by providing high-quality content that informs and inspires a Christian life. But quality journalism has a cost and it’s more than ads can cover. We want our articles to be accessible to everyone, free of charge, but we need your help. To continue our efforts to nourish and inspire our Catholic family, your support is invaluable. Become an Aleteia Patron today for as little as $3 a month. May we count on you?