Mérida Cathedral - History and Facts | History Hit

Mérida Cathedral

Merida, Yucatan, Mexico

Merida Cathedral in Mexico is the oldest cathedral on the continent.

Image Credit: Loes Kieboom / Shutterstock

About Mérida Cathedral

Mérida Cathedral, known locally as Catedral de San Ildefonso, in Mexico is a sixteenth century cathedral built by Spanish colonialists on the site of a former Mayan city, T’ho, using stone from the Mayan pyramids.

History of Mérida Cathedral

Constructed between 1561 and 1598, Mérida Cathedral was the first such cathedral to be completed on mainland Americas, and one of only two to be built in Latin America in the 16th century.

The interior pays homage to the relationship between Spanish and Maya heritage – the large crucifix is known as a Christ of Unity (Cristo de la Unidad) and is meant to symbolise reconciliation between Spanish and Mayan leaders, and paintings depict indigenous chiefs and Spanish leaders paying respects to one another, as well as showing them as allies.
Much of the original ornate interior decoration was destroyed during the Mexican revolution: the Spanish royal coat of arms on the cathedral façade was damaged and later buried under concrete during a wave of anti-Spanish sentiment in the 19th century.

Look out for the statue known as Cristo de las Ampollas in a side chapel to the left of the main altar. According to legend, the wood the statue is carved from came from a tree which was hit by lightning and burned all night, miraculously without charring. It went on to survive another fire, and was brought to Mérida Cathedral in 1645.

Mérida Cathedral today

The cathedral is open daily, although it’s closed for a large portion of the afternoon so check timings before you go. Entry is free, and you’ll need to dress relatively modestly. It makes a cool, pleasant break from the heat of the Yucatan.

Getting to Mérida Cathedral

The cathedral is in the historic centre of Mérida , on between Calles 58 and 60, and Calles 61 and 63. It’s easily walkable from anywhere in the city. Merida itself is about a 4 hour drive from Cancun.

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