Ruinas de La Antigua Catedral Metropolitana de Santiago

The entrance to the ruins of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago can be found behind and on the south side of the San José Cathedral that sits on the east side of the Main Square. For a small entrance fee, you can explore the remains of the original church of Santiago that was completed in 1680 under the direction of Master Architect Joseph de Porras and Captain Martín de Andújar. It took eleven years to build.

Guest Reviews:

Only the structure of this immense cathedral remains, following the earthquake of the 18th century, but it is absolutely impressive! A visit to see as much about the ruins as about the effects of an earthquake in Guatemala. Some crypts, beautiful remains of sculpted stucco, and a small entrance fee (20Q in 2024).” -Alexandre Delimoges

It had to be truly magnificent, if you look closely at those immense pillars and beautiful decorative reliefs that are still preserved. It is awe-inspiring to walk among the shattered stone skeletons of the monumental cathedral, which suffered several earthquakes between 1717 and 1751. The cathedral, built by Joseph de Porres in 1680, could not withstand such a cataclysm and was left in ruins with the last earthquake in 1773.” -Victor Virgos

Ruinas de Catedral de San Jose
Entrance Fee:
Nationals Q10.00 / Foreigners Q20.00
Opening Hours:
Daily 9am – 5pm
Days Closed:
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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.