Iglesia de La Candelaria, the Oldest Church in Medellín

Iglesia de La Candelaria
Iglesia de La Candelaria

Iglesia de La Candelaria is considered the oldest church in Medellín. The church is most popularly known as Iglesia de La Candelaria, but its more formal name is Basílica Menor de Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria (Basilica of Our Lady of Candelaria).

The church was dedicated to Our Lady of Candelaria, which was an invocation of devotion to the Spanish and the sailors who crossed the Atlantic to the New World.

The colonial church is located in La Candelaria (El Cento) and is worth seeing while touring the other tourist sites in the nearby area such as Museo de Antioquia and Plaza Botero.

Also found nearby is Iglesia de la Veracruz, which is another of the oldest churches in Medellín that we looked at recently.

Iglesia de La Candelaria (Wikimedia by SajoR)
Iglesia de La Candelaria (Wikimedia by SajoR)

History of the Church

The first version of the church was built of wood and thatch in 1649 for the first parish in the city of Medellín. The original church was not very well built, so it was rebuilt in 1712.

This second church on the site was approaching ruin in 1766 and construction of the current masonry church began in 1767 using a neoclassical architecture, which was inaugurated in 1776.

Iglesia de La Candelaria has been in operation as a Roman Catholic church of worship since that time, except for a brief time around 1826 when the roof was repaired, and in 1850 when the altar was built in the church and the organ installed.

The two front towers were added to the church in 1890. When the Diocese of Medellín was formed, Iglesia de La Candelaria was its first cathedral until the Catedral Basílica Metropolitana opened in 1931.

In 1970, Iglesia de La Candelaria was declared a minor basilica. The historical church was declared a National Monument of Colombia in July 1998.

In 1997, the church was restored using material and techniques used at the original time of construction.

The Central Nave inside Iglesia de La Candelaria
The Central Nave inside Iglesia de La Candelaria

Inside the Church

The interior of Iglesia de La Candelaria is whitewashed with some gold trim and many pieces of art can be found in the church. The main alter in the church is white with gold columns and trim.

Confessionals along the right aisle
Confessionals along the right aisle

The church also has several confessionals found along the right and left aisles.

The organ in the church was built in Germany and was donated by José María Berrienteos. The organ arrived in Colombia by sea and travelled by boat up the Magdelana River and by mule to Medellín, reaching the city in 1850.

Inside the Church
Inside the Church

How to Get There

Iglesia de La Candelaria is located on the eastern side of Parque Barrio, which is located next to the Parque Berrio metro station.

Parque Barrio is named for Pedro Just Berrio, one of the major politicians in the Antioquia area of the nineteenth century. Parque Barrio is a popular gathering place in El Centro.

The easiest way to get to Iglesia de La Candelaria is to take the Medellín metro to the Parque Berrio station and the church is located a very short walk from the metro station.

Or you can ask any taxi driver in Medellín to take you to “Iglesia de la Candelaria en el Centro,” as they all will know where it is located.

Note to Readers

This is the fourth church in Medellín we have looked at in a new series looking at the most notable churches in the city. We previously looked at Iglesia de la Veracruz, Iglesia Jesús Nazareno and Catedral Basílica Metropolitana.

We plan to look at several more of the historic churches in Medellín over the next couple months as several of the beautiful churches in the city are unfortunately missing from the travel guidebooks of Colombia.

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  1. Thanks for starting this series about the beautiful and historic churches found in Medellín. It is good to know the history behind each one of these churches. Also many of these churches are not found in the tourist guidebooks.

  2. Hey JEFF!!!!
    This cathedral is awesome!! Thank you for the pics and good job in briefing the history. Architecture has really been one of the ways to express oneself to the society and this church has lit the limelight! The way the central nave is lit against the black roofed white arches in the inside is simply divine.