Antigua Stories and Tips

Even More Ruins

Santa Catarina Photo, Antigua, Guatemala

These ruins are within a few blocks of each other, northwest of the plaza.

Santa Catarina
Past
Also known as Santa Catalina, this convent was built in 1609 to address a lack of housing for local nuns. In 1693, an arch was built over the street, connecting the convent to the church, so the nuns could honor their vow not to be seen in public. In 1697, the convent reached its maximum occupancy of 110 nuns. It was abandoned, like most other establishments in town, in 1773. In 1775, it was turned into housing. The arch was restored in 1853 and again in the 20th century.
Present
Today part of the church and the cloister walls stand in ruin. The arch still exists and is probably Antigua's most famous landmark. We read that the convent is open to the public; but the church and the arch are not. We could not find the entrance.

La Merced
Past
La Merced, the first monastery of Antigua, was built in 1548. The present church was built in 1767 by the architect Juan de Dios Estrada who, taking into consideration the local seismic activity, designed a structure with short proportion, thick walls and a sturdy facade. The church survived all the earthquakes up to the second earthquake in 1773 when it sustained moderate damage and was abandoned. It was restored in 1853; damaged some in 1976 and promptly fixed. The convent was destroyed by the 1773 quake.
Present
One of the few old churches still standing in town, La Merced is also the easiest to recognize. It is yellow and its facade is decorated with swirling and frilly white designs in a technique known as ataurique. It is open daily from 7 am to noon and again from 3 pm to 8 pm. The convent, still in ruins, houses the largest fountain in Antigua. It is open daily from 9am to 6pm. Admission is Q3 (US$ .37).

San Jeronimo
Past
San Jeronimo was built as a school in 1739. It was completed in 1759 but because of red tape, was closed two years later. The king gave orders to tear it down. He was ignored and in 1765, it became the Real Aduana (Royal Custom House). It was abandoned in 1773.
Present
San Jeronimo is a pleasant place to spend a few hours, with its fountain and grassy areas. Mostly in ruins, the kitchen, a small chapel from the 18th century, and the front of the school remain standing. It is open daily 8am to 5pm and admission is Q30 (US$3.75) for foreigners.

La Compañia de Jesus
Past
This school was started in 1607 and the church was inaugurated in1626. A new church was started in 1689 but because of earthquake damage was not inaugurated until 1698. It was seriously damaged in 1751 and restored in 1755, but was abandoned in 1767 when the Jesuits were kicked out of Hispanic America. It was badly damaged in 1773 along with the rest of Antigua. During the 1800s, it was a textile factory until the roof and cupola collapsed. In 1912, a market was set up here until the 1976 quake caused even more damage. In 1978, it was partially restored. During its heyday, La Compañia de Jesus consisted of the school, the church, a convent, a library, a hospital and fruit orchards.
Present
The front of the church is still standing where some original, and some recreated, fresco work can be seen. Restoration work is now being done by a Spanish company. The church is not accessible to the public but the convent is open daily from 9am to 6pm. No admission is charged.

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