The white and blue colors are traditionally associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary, so it doesn’t seem surprising that the of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe, or Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Guadalupe in Spanish, is painted in those colors. The Cathedral, which is registered with the Natural Trust of Historic Sites, has a pipe organ, stained-glass windows, and twin bell towers.
The Original “Cathedral” Was Just a Small Chapel
The Cathedral that stands on Plaza Las Delicias today was constructed in 1931 and is not the original structure built by Spanish colonists in the 15th century. Also known as the Ponce Cathedral, Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Guadalupe was built as a small chapel, not the immense place of worship it is today. That small chapel was rebuilt many times as a result of damages brought about by fires and earthquakes.
In 2007, the Cathedral underwent renovation. The structure that exists today in downtown Ponce, Puerto Rico’s second largest city, has three domes and two steeples and some portions of it go back to the 19th century. Sometime in 1919, funds from the local parishioners were collected by priests and used to finance the construction the Cathedral which now stands in Plaza de las Delicias.
Designed by two men both named Francisco – Francisco Trublard and Francisco Porrato Doría – the structure has been inspired by Gothic and Doric architectural styles. The Cathedral is actually named after the Basilica of Guadalupe, the shrine dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary who appeared in 1531 to an Indian peasant by the name of Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill outside Mexico City.
Impeccably clipped trees – called Indian laurels — ring the perimeter of the plaza of this most well-known church in southern Puerto Rico. The Cathedral has a translucent alabaster main altar which was commissioned in Burgos, Spain by a former governor of the island in the 60s and iron lampposts that are circa 1916. The topiary in the plaza is carefully groomed and well maintained by a master gardener.
The Cathedral’s main floor has a brick dome, inquisitive pillars with three columns that sustain the arcades, and three naves. Incidentally, the alabaster altar was donated by the prominent Ferre family who founded the Ponce Museum of Art. The Cathedral, designated officially in 1924 by Pope Pius XI as “the Catholic Ponce Cathedral,” has a small-sized cemetery in the interior.
Donations are Welcome and Greatly Appreciated
Regular Roman Catholic Church services are conducted at the Cathedral, including masses and novenas. It is open Mondays through Fridays from six o’clock in the morning until one o’clock in the afternoon. On Saturdays and Sundays, the Cathedral is open from three o’clock in the afternoon until eight o’clock in the evening. Admission is free of charge and any donation is welcomed and greatly appreciated.
From the Cathedral, access to other tourist attractions is easy. Just around the plaza is the cariatid columned-Armstron-Poventud House and the Museum of the History of Ponce housed in Casa Salazar. A walking mall, located along the former Calle Atocha, has numerous shops, stores, and boutiques and a magnificent Art Deco-designed movie theater known as Fox Delicias with Mediterranean touches.