The Metropolitan Cathedral

On one of our first days in Buenos Aires, we approached the dour neo-classical building on the northwest corner of the Plaza de Mayo without having any idea what it could be. My best guess was a courthouse, with those massive stone columns that evoke the Parthenon, and I was surprised to discover a cathedral behind the facade.

Metropolitan Cathedral in Buenos Aires

The Metropolitan Cathedral has a history nearly as old as the city itself. The original wooden church was constructed in 1580, at the same time Juan de Garay founded Buenos Aires. Since then, it’s collapsed or been torn down seven times. The version recognizable today wasn’t finished until the late 19th century.

General José de San Martín's mausoleum in Buenos Aires

The artwork throughout the cathedral is beautiful, particularly the ceiling frescoes and the tiled mosaics on the floor. There are some pieces which date from colonial times, such as a 1670s wooden sculpture of the crucifixion. But most impressive is General José de San Martín’s mausoleum. Two guards stand vigilant, protecting the great general’s coffin which sits atop a large column in the center of the room. Martín is credited with the liberation of Argentina, Chile and Peru from Spain, and statues representing those three nations surround his memorial.

Buenos Aires Architecture outside Metropolitan Cathedral

Signs at the cathedral’s entrance prohibit photography, but that rule is neither regarded nor enforced. Everyone and their mother was taking pictures; flashes going off all over the place. Although Argentinians identify almost exclusively as Catholic, the society is basically secular. Perhaps that’s why the Metropolitan Cathedral, where tourists greatly outnumber the faithful, feels more like an amusement park than the country’s most important place of worship.

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Jimena

    you know, I was reading your post and I remember my grandma tell me something about this cathedral, so I asked her, and she tells me the fantastic floor was built by her father, she says he put a great efford on everyone of the tiled mosaics and was so proud to be the one called to did that 🙂

    1. Juergen

      What a neat story – great crafts and arts man. I’m going to look if I have a picture of the floor. I think I already uploaded it but forgot to put the picture in the post.

    2. Juergen

      Check out the post again – added a pictures of the beautiful tiles!

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