The Catedral Basílica Metropolitana de la Inmaculada Concepción de María (Metropolitan Cathedral of Medellín) is the principal church of the Archdiocese of Medellín and is arguably the most important church in the city.
The large church is built in a Romanesque style with some Byzantine details. The Roman Catholic church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and was built over a period of over 50 years from 1875 to the late 1920s.
The church was built using solid brick construction with about 1,120,000 adobe bricks, which makes it one of the largest baked clay structures in the world. The sizable church is impressive to see, and it has many beautiful pieces of artwork.
History of the Church
In 1868, the Bishop of Medellín and Antioquia, Valerio Antonio Jiménez, insisted on building the church. The church is built on land donated by engineer and English philanthropist Tyrrel Moore.
Construction of the church started in 1875 and continued until 1883 when construction was suspended due to the large scope of the building and claimed incompetence of the architect, Felipe Crosti.
Under Bishop Bernardo Herrera Restrepo, a second phase started in 1886. The previous design was discredited, and French architect Carlos Carré developed a new design.
The clock on the main facade of the church was donated by the former president of the State of Antioquia, Recaredo de Villa in 1910.
The main construction of the church was completed in 1917, and the first mass was held in the church that year. Additional work was done on the church after that time to add the altar, pulpit and other ornamental works plus make other changes to the church.
On August 11, 1931, the church was inaugurated as a cathedral. On June 12, 1948, Pope Pius XII granted the church the title “Basílica Menor”.
In March 1982, Catedral Basílica Metropolitana was declared a national monument of Colombia for being one the major architectural works in the country.
Inside the Church
The interior of the large church is brick with many works of art, including paintings and sculptures by renowned artists.
Catedral Basílica Metropolitana also has 76 stained glass windows of various sizes. The stained glass windows were manufactured in Spain and designed in France by Giovanni Buscaglione.
The large organ in the church was built in Germany in 1932 and shipped to Colombia via boat and arrived in Medellín via train.
The church also has a small museum of religious art, which is located in a room next to the basilica, consisting of four rooms. Unfortunately, the museum is not open to the public.
The collection in the church museum includes about 40 paintings (from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries) and 15 sculptures (between the 18th and 19th centuries).
In 2009, the organ was renovated at a cost of 630 million pesos (which is now about $249,000) with the German government contributing 70,000 Euros, as the organ is one of the few built before WWII that is still preserved.
Also contributing to the renovation that was completed in 2010 were the city of Medellín and Government in Antioquia as well as private companies.
Catedral Basílica Metropolitana needs more renovation work done based on a study to assess the condition of the building.
Nothing is critically wrong, but the cathedral has some structural deficiencies, settlements, cracks, moisture and deterioration of brick, which are to be expected of a large brick building this old.
How to Get There
The church is conveniently located about four blocks from the Prado metro station, so it is easy to get to. From the metro station, walk one block south on Bolívar and three blocks east on Calle 57 to get to the church.
Iglesia Jesús Nazareno is another notable church that is also located near the Prado metro on the other side of the metro line.
All the taxi drivers in the city also know where Catedral Basílica Metropolitana is located.
The cathedral is open mainly in the morning when masses are held hourly, and then it is typically closed in the afternoon and reopened for the last Mass of the day.
Around holidays, the church is normally open for more hours. The church is the site of a number of event celebrations each year such as religious ceremonies and holidays.
Note to Readers
We plan to look at several more of the historic churches in Medellín over the next few months, as several of the beautiful churches are unfortunately missing from the travel guidebooks of Colombia.