Monday, March 18, 2013

The Cathedral of San Juan Bautista

We love visiting churches when we travel.  Churches and graveyards.  They both can reveal so much about a culture - both in the present and over time.

When we were in Puerto Rico, we visited the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, which is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. The cathedral is one of the oldest buildings in San Juan, and is the second oldest cathedral in the Americas. The Cathedral of Santa María la Menor in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, is the oldest.

The original cathedral in what was the city of Puerto Rico (changed to San Juan after the Spanish-American War) was constructed from wood in 1521. It was destroyed by a hurricane and the current structure constructed in 1540, being reshaped in later centuries, the last time being in 1917.

The first school in Puerto Rico (and the oldest school in the United States after Puerto Rico became a territory of the United States) was the Escuela de gramática (Grammar School). The school was established by Bishop Alonso Manso in 1513, in the area where the cathedral would later be constructed. The school was free of charge and the courses taught were Latin language, literature, history, science, art, philosophy and theology.

The cathedral contains the tomb of the Spanish explorer and settlement founder Juan Ponce de León. It also has a shrine to the Blessed Carlos Manuel Rodríguez Santiago, the first Puerto Rican, the first Caribbean-born layperson and the first layperson in the history of the United States to be beatified.

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