Catedral Metropolitana - History and Facts | History Hit

Catedral Metropolitana

Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral is an eighteenth century building and the centre of Catholicism in Buenos Aires.

Image Credit: Lee Torrens / Shutterstock

About Catedral Metropolitana

The Buenos Aires Catedral Metropolitana (Metropolitan Cathedral) was originally built in the sixteenth century, although it has since undergone several changes and the current building was constructed in 1745.

History of Catedral Metropolitana

Buenos Aires was founded in 1580 by Juan de Garay: simultaneously, a spot on the main square (now known as Plaza de Mayo) was reserved for a church. The first church was part of the diocese of Asunción (in modern day Paraguay), and was built of wood. In 1620, Buenos Aires was given a bishopric by Pope Paul V, which gave its church the status of a cathedral.

Multiple rebuildings occurred during the 17th and 18th centuries, often using poor quality building materials. The current cathedral was designed by an Italian architect, Antonio Masella, in the mid 18th century – it was grander and more majestic than any incarnations which had come before it, but still faced issues with the construction of the dome, which proved problematic.

The neoclassical façade was added in the 19th century, inspired by the Palais Bourbon in Paris. The addition of the portico has led to many saying the building resembles a temple as opposed to a church. The reliefs on the pediment depict the reunion of Joseph with his father Jacob, and his brothers – an allegory of the Argentine nation being together in harmony once more following several wars of fratricide. 

The cathedral’s modern day claim to fame comes from it being the cathedral and diocese where Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, served as Archbishop of Buenos Aires from 1998 to 2013.

As the main church of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, Catedral Metropolitana forms the centre of catholic life in the city. Catedral Metropolitana contains the mausoleum of General San Martin, a central figure in Argentina’s struggle for independence from Spain. It also houses the tomb of the unknown soldier of Argentine independence and an eternal flame of remembrance.

Catedral Metropolitana today

The cathedral is open every day – check mass times as you won’t be allowed in unless you’re attending during service times. Entry is free, although donations are welcome, and you’ll need to dress conservatively – Argentina is still a Catholic country and it’s a mark of respect to cover up when entering.

The baroque interior is particularly impressive, as is the rococo altar. Look out for the mausoleum of Argentina’s independence hero, General José de San Martín – the flame outside representing his spirit being kept alive.

Getting to Catedral Metropolitana

The cathedral is on the north side of Plaza de Mayo: the nearest metro stop is Catedral, and buses stop close by, on Avenida Rivadavia.

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