Puerto Rico is a Catholic country that was a former Spanish colony, so it’s to be expected that you’d find lots of cathedrals here. And you won’t be disappointed with the magnificent Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral. Most people just call it the Ponce Cathedral as it is located right in the middle of Plaza de las Delicias in downtown Ponce.
Ponce Cathedral was built back in 1670, and at the time it was no more than a small chapel. It was located in the very heart of the colonial settlement of Ponce. Since then it has been destroyed and rebuilt and renovated several times. King Carlos II of Spain issued a Royal Permit that designated the original chapel as a parish church, but it was demolished and rebuilt as a larger church in 1839.
It was damaged by earthquakes and fires through the centuries. The most notable of these disasters was the 1918 earthquake, which destroyed the original two towers.
In 1934 a new pipe organ was installed, and after a nine-year renovation it was re-inaugurated in 1989.
The current façade resembles a French neoclassical style when it was reconstructed according to the design of Francisco Porrata Doria. Two new chapels were added, along with two exquisitely designed square towers during that construction period from 1931 to 1937. A new roof was also installed, and the upper story of the facade was remodeled. The structure follows a cruciform plan. The interior consists of a main nave, along with two big aisles segregated by a series of eight arcades.
The Ponce Cathedral is, in a word, beautiful. You will immediately understand the religious nature of the building, but soon you may be lost in the architectural details.
You don’t have to know anything about architecture to appreciate the fine detail of the construction, and the vibe inside is amazing. Don’t forget to bring your digital cameras, as you will really want to take lots of pictures for your collection.
Advice for Tourists
Keep in mind though that this is still a church and not a museum, so there’s no fee to enter. But since it’s a church there are regular Masses and other services daily. You may want to call 787-842-0134 so you can find out about the schedules of the regular services so you won’t disturb any religious services when you play tourist.
On Mondays to Fridays, the cathedral is open from 6am to 1pm. On weekends, it’s open from 3pm to 8pm. Make sure your clothes are appropriate, and you may want to wear something that’s not overly casual.
In December, you may chance upon the Guadalupana Catholic Holiday. You don’t want to drive through this, as the traffic will be horrendous. People will be congregating at the Plaza a few days before the event.
Mass will be celebrated in the Ponce Cathedral in honor of the Virgen de Guadalupe. A parade will start the festivities in the morning. You’ll be hearing Las Mañanitas with Mariachi music all over the city during the day.