The most iconic building in Guadalajara, the city’s main cathedral has been the centerpiece of both its culture and its skyline for more than 450 years. The original structure was built in the Spanish Renaissance-style during the 16th and 17th centuries and features a neoclassical facade, while the neo-Gothic bell towers were added in the 19th century after the previous ones were toppled by an earthquake. The result is an amalgam of architectural styles that balances baroque, neoclassical and Gothic elements.
Guadalajara’s first cathedral was built in 1541. A modest building with adobe walls and a thatched roof, it was located across the street from the Teatro Degollado — four blocks from its present site. Then one day in 1574, neighbors fired guns into the air during mass and bullets landed on the cathedral’s roof. It caught fire and the building was severely damaged. Meanwhile, construction on cathedral’s much grander replacement had already begun in the 1558. King Felipe II of Spain commissioned it and Bishop Pedro de Ayala laid its first stone.
The new cathedral, a Spanish Renaissance-style building with square towers and two domes, was completed 60 years later in 1618 and stood relatively unchanged for 200 years. Then in 1818, an earthquake struck Guadalajara and the cathedral’s domes and towers collapsed. They were replaced, but the new towers were destroyed by another earthquake 20 years later. The current Neo-Gothic towers date from the 1850s and their design is said to have been inspired by the bishop’s dinner china. The yellow tiles that crown them are from Sayula, a town 60 miles south of Guadalajara.
The cathedral’s majestic interior holds many points of interest, beginning with its Gothic vaults, its Tuscan-style white pillars and its French-made stained glass windows. The space is organized around its three chapels and 11 altars. The altars, which are decorated with paintings by some of Mexico’s finest artists, were gifted to Guadalajara by King Fernando VII of Spain. The main one is made of marble and silver and its altarpieces date from 1820 to 1835.
Other highlights include a painting of the Virgin Mary attributed to the 17th-century Spanish artist Bartolomé Estaban Murillo, which is in the sacristy, and the massive late 19th-century French organ located in a loft above the main entrance.
The glass case nearest to the north entrance is an extremely popular reliquary that contains the hands and blood of the martyred Santa Inocencia. Also interned in the church are the remains of many bishops and three cardinals, as well as the heart of a former president.
Catedral de Guadalajara Essential Information
- Address: Alcalde Ave. #10 (between Hildalgo Ave. and Morelos) Guadalajara, 44100
- Tel: +(33) 3613 7168
- Hours of Operation: 8:00AM - 8:00PM