Antigua’s long tumultuous history of natural catastrophes have left a bittersweet mark on this nearly 500-year-old city.  Founded in March 10, 1543 by the Spanish conquistadors Antigua became the third capital of Guatemala and the capital remained there for over 200 years until death and destruction struck too many times.

In 1717 a devastating earthquake struck the area, demolishing over 3,000 buildings and leaving the gorgeous colonial city in ruins.  Over time, churches and buildings were rebuilt in force while Antigua continued to grow in power and prestige despite the geographical hazards and continual rumblings.   It took an even more devastating earthquake, which struck on July 29, 1773, to finally force the Guatemalan government to pack their bags and move the capital once again, this time to Guatemala City where it remains today.

What makes Antigua so incredibly striking and fascinating is that like the ancient city of Rome, the ruins remain.  Behind every gorgeous, serendipitous church can be found an equally impressive, spectacular set of ruins that give the visitor a glimpse of what once laid there hundreds of years before.  It can be argued that the ruins are in fact what make this city so incredibly divine.   Yes, the cobblestone streets, the three triangular volcanoes, a vibrant indigenous culture and colorfully painted buildings are sensational.  Yet, the ruins which are barren and open up naked to the sky, are beyond imagination.

Judge for yourself and take a walk with me through the ruins of Antigua.

After leaving a splendid second breakfast at Cafe Condesa, Lucy took me to our first stop of the day:  The Catedral de Santiago.  It seemed like the perfect place to start given its key location in the center and heart of Antigua.  Little did I know, it was going to be the ruins hidden behind the cathedral that would blow me away.

Located on the east side of the Parque Central, Catedral de Santiago rises above everything else.  Its gorgeous colonial exterior and serene interior are reminiscent of the Spanish influence.  Although the construction of the cathedral began in 1542, multiple earthquakes over the following centuries destroyed the cathedral.  Today only a reconstruction of its splendid facade remains.  (Source:  All About Antigua Guide).  

The above statues of the saints are replicas of the originals.  

Inside the cathedral, I saw my first Alfombra (carpet made of colored sawdust) and this is also where I saw some of the religious statues that I put in my previous post on Semana Santa.  

After viewing the inside of the impressive Cathedral, Lucy and I walked around back for the real treasure….the ruins.  

I love how the arches and naves are left open to the sky and to Heaven.  

We were lucky to have the whole place to ourselves.  No tour groups or other people.  It felt surreal in here.  So massive, so powerful, so mystical.  I can only imagine what kind of force of nature took this work of art down.  

If you look closely you can see what remains of the intricate artwork.  

Or you can see plant life sprouting up out of the ruins and reaching toward the sun. 

Signs of life remain inside the ruins showing the rebirth of mother nature. 

This is my favorite picture.  They ruins look so threatening and haunting.  There are many stories inside of this place. 

As we left the ruins after many pictures, I felt overjoyed. For this is the kind of stuff I love to see when I travel. A little piece of history that remains from the past.  I wonder what life was like in the 17th and 18th centuries in Antigua.  I can almost close my eyes and see it.

Stay tuned….we visited many more places that day meaning I have quite a few more posts to share with you about Guatemala.  Hope you enjoyed the post! 


  1. I love this kind of place! Ruins hidden behind the more modern church. I can imagine myself wandering around the empty spaces of the old cathedral. Surreal pretty much describe what I most likely will feel.

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