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Catedral de San José

Located on the east side of the Main Square, you will find the Cathedral that now houses the Parish of San José. Completed in 1680 under the direction of Master Architect Joseph de Porras and Captain Martín de Andújar, the Cathedral suffered major damage in the earthquake of 1773. Left idle until partial restoration of the entrance, baptistry, and two chapels began in the mid 1800s. Regular mass services are conducted here daily. You can view the ruins of the Cathedral of Santiago through the entrance on the south side.

Guest Reviews:

I visited the Catedral de San José a few years ago while in Antigua, Guatemala and it was an awesome experience. This parish is absolutely beautiful and it’s 100% worth checking-out while you’re in Antigua. Take a walking tour if you can, as this place has incredible history. You must go see the ruins of the original cathedral when you visit as well. It’s amazing to witness the history here! 10/10 recommend!” -Kristin Matulis

Right in the heart of Antigua, it’s one of the towns most iconic structures and well worth a visit. A lot of people don’t realise that there are ruins out the back accessible from the street. They’re cheap to get into and fun to explore. Downstairs you can even see a dungeon and a couple of years ago they did renovations to help conserve the ruins, culture and heritage of the site.” -Bel Woodhouse

The Cathedral of San Jose Antigua Guatemala exterior view
Entrance Fee:
Church: Free (the Ruins: Nationals 10Q / Foreigners 20Q)
Opening Hours:
Click on the website link for mass times
Days Closed:
Open Daily
Social Media:

The original Cathedral, like many of the buildings built in 1542, was poorly constructed. Bishop Francisco Marroquín used what materials he could from the church that was destroyed in the landslide in the former capital, San Miguel Escobar (Cuidad Vieja), but the new cathedral was constructed primarily using mud bricks and thatch. Despite receiving funds from the Crown in 1545, and additional resources two years later from the estate of the deceased conquistador Pedro de Alvarado, the cathedral was anything but majestic.

In 1669, affected by earthquakes, and in a constant state of disrepair, the original structure would finally be demolished. In its place, encompassing one entire city block, Master Architect Joseph de Porras would design an awe-inspiring Cathedral in a baroque colonial style with tall columns, vaulted ceilings, and huge domes. Completed in 1680, the Cathedral was adorned with paintings and sculptures and magnificent works from the best colonial artists, including Quirio Cataño, Alonso de Paz, and others.

For almost a century, the Cathedral of Santiago resisted destruction by seismic activity, until the earthquake of 1773. As with most of the city, the Cathedral experienced severe damage. When the capital was moved to Guatemala City, the Cathedral furniture, alter pieces, and other property were left behind and were eventually moved to the cloister of the University of San Carlos.

What formal restoration efforts took place, and when, is unclear. According to available resources, discussions had begun in the early 1800s to move the Parish of San José from the University to the ruined Cathedral. When the actual work began and when it was completed, that’s a different story. What we do know is that the Parish of San José was eventually moved into the restored entrance, baptistry, and two chapels of the original structure at some point during the mid-1800s.

Various restoration projects have been undertaken throughout the centuries. For example, the damaged bell towers were removed after the 1874 earthquake. In 1944, rubble and debris were partially removed from the ruins in “preparation of the city’s declaration as a National Monument.” And, funding was provided and stabilization work carried out by the National Council for the Protection of La Antigua Guatemala starting in the early 1980’s up until the present day.

A visit to Antigua would not be complete without a walk through the ruins of this original Cathedral of Santiago. Fun fact, you can also view the ruins while dining on the terrace of the french restaurant, Tartines.



“Antigua Guatemala” by Elizabeth Bell, pages 40-45

Please note that many of the entrance fees for landmarks, parks, and museums are subsidized by the government for Guatemalan citizens. You may notice a price difference for foreigners.