SAN ILDEFONSO: Mexico’s oldest cathedral

The Spaniards reshaped the New World in so many ways with their customs, language and of course, religion. Much of Latin America is dotted with spectacular cathedrals built during and after the conquest.  What is the oldest cathedral in all of Mexico? San Ildefonso in Mérida.

Front view of San Ildefonso

Front view of San Ildefonso

Construction began around 1562 on this impressive construction, about nine years before the groundbreaking of the impressive Catedral Metropolitana in Mexico City. The Spaniards forced the Maya people to destroy their city of T’ho (now Mérida) and use the stones from the crumbled structures to construct this cathedral.

Visitors who have been impressed with the wealth of ornate decoration and religious artifacts will leave the cathedral a bit disappointed. While the structure itself is impressive, the interior lacks much of the ornate touches and art work due to the ruthless act of General Salavador Alvarado in 1915. During the unsettled revolutionary period in Mexico, General Alvarado ransacked the church and stole the valuable pieces within.

After the Mexican Revolution, the church was preserved and some other touches added. It continues today to be a very popular place of worship for the locals in Mérida.

When in Mérida, this massive structure should be towards the top of any visitor’s list of must-see attractions!

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