Editor’s Note: Over a period of three months earlier this year we looked in detail at 15 different churches in Medellín. In this article, Jeff shares what he thinks are the top five churches in Medellín worth seeing, along with a suggested itinerary.
We previously looked at 15 churches:
- Iglesia de la Veracruz
- Iglesia Jesús Nazareno
- Catedral Basílica Metropolitana
- Iglesia de La Candelaria
- Iglesia San Jose
- Iglesia del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús
- Iglesia San Antonio
- Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro
- Iglesia de San Ignacio
- Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Rosario (in Bello)
- Iglesia de Santa Ana (in Sabaneta)
- Iglesia de Santa Gertrudis (in Envigado)
- Iglesia de Nuestra Señora (in Belén)
- Iglesia San José (in El Poblado)
- Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de Los Dolores (in Robledo)
The first nine churches were all in La Candelaria (El Centro), and all could be seen in a few hours time. Most of the churches in El Centro are located within one to seven blocks of a metro station.
In the metropolitan area, there are over 200 churches; a complete list can be found here. Jeff now shares what he believes are the top five churches in the city that are worth seeing above all others.
1. Catedral Basílica Metropolitana
Address: Carrera 48 #56-81, El Centro
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 church is the largest in the city and was built using a 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.
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.
In March 1982, Catedral Basílica Metropolitana was declared a national monument of Colombia for being one the major architectural works in the country.
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.
2. Iglesia Jesús Nazareno
Address: Carrera 52 #61-30, El Centro
Iglesia Jesús Nazareno (Jesus of Nazareth Church) is one of the most beautiful churches in Medellín. The church was built in the twentieth century, between the years 1923 to 1939.
Of all the churches in Medellín, the Iglesia Jesús Nazareno has the most distinctive exterior of all the churches in the city and the church is noticeable from the metro.
Iglesia Jesús Nazareno is a sizable Roman Catholic church with Gothic architecture along with some French touches. Inside the church is decorated in white with gold trim with many pieces of art as well as stained glass windows.
3. Iglesia de La Candelaria
Address: Carrera 49A #50-85, El Centro
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 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.
In 1970, Iglesia de La Candelaria was declared a minor basilica. The historical church was declared a National Monument of Colombia in July 1998.
4. Iglesia San Antonio
Address: Carrera 48 # 44-55, El Centro
Iglesia San Antonio is best known for its sizable dome, which is reportedly the largest in the city and one of the biggest in the country.
Father Frey Benjamin Maschiantonio, an expert in Hebrew and Greek, built the church between 1874 and 1902.
The church was completely renovated between 1929 and 1945 when the massive dome was added, along with a Spanish organ, which is now reportedly partly destroyed.
The interior of Iglesia San Antonio is white and red with some gold trim, and many beautiful pieces of art can be found in the church.
The most notable feature in the church is its sizable dome, which has several stained glass windows as well as artwork located nearby.
The church is located next to Parque San Antonio in La Candelaria (El Cento). It is worth seeing the Fernando Botero sculptures in Parque San Antonio as there is some violent history behind one of them.
The plaza area of Parque San Antonio is notorious for a bomb attack, which happened in the late evening on June 10, 1995.
The bomb was placed in a Botero bird sculpture, and the explosion reportedly resulted in 23 deaths and more than 200 wounded with a concert going on at the time in the area.
After the bombing, Fernando Botero created an identical sculpture and placed it in 2000 alongside the original as a sign of peace and homage to the lost lives.
The original bombed bird sculpture was left as a reminder of the hard times Medellín has been through.
5. Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Rosario
Address: Calle 51 #49-44, Bello
Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Rosario is notable as it arguably has the most beautiful interior out of all the churches in Medellín we looked at. The church is also considered a museum of religious art.
In addition to the decorated facade, columns, walls, and arches, it has a range of artwork such as murals, stained glass, carvings, sculptures, reliefs and liturgical objects.
The church is located in Bello, which is the most northern municipality in the valley.
The church was designed by Italian Architect Albano Germanetti. Construction started in 1936 and the church opened on October 10, 1947. Since opening, the church has operated as a Roman Catholic church.
The interior of Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Rosario is white with gold trim. The church is very beautiful inside and is very impressive, with a tremendous amount artwork and many stained glass windows.
The church has several large murals on the ceiling, which aren’t found in other churches in the city.
The main altar in the church is also impressive, and the church has confessionals located along the right and left aisles.
Seeing the five churches in our list would take several hours. Two of the churches (Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Rosario and Iglesia Jesús Nazareno) are not open all the time, so it is important to call before going to make sure they are open to see the interiors.
Both Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Rosario and Iglesia Jesús Nazareno are normally open in the mornings so the best time to visit them would be in the morning.
The first church to visit in our recommended itinerary is Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Rosario, which is the only church on our list not in El Centro.
The easiest way to get to Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Rosario is to take the Medellín metro north to the Bello station, and the church is located about a 10-minute walk north from the metro station.
There are also frequent buses that run from the Bello metro station to and from Parque Bello, where the church is located.
After visiting Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Rosario, the second church on our itinerary is Iglesia Jesús Nazareno.
Iglesia Jesús Nazareno is conveniently located about three blocks from the Prado metro station. Just walk about three blocks north on Avenida Juan del Corral from the metro station, and it will be on the left side of the road.
Almost all the taxi drivers in the city also know where the distinctive church is located.
After visiting Iglesia Jesús Nazareno, the third church on our itinerary is Iglesia de La Candelaria.
The easiest way to get to Iglesia de La Candelaria is to take the Medellín metro to the Parque Berrio station; the church is located a very short walk from the metro station.
The fourth church on our itinerary is Catedral Basílica Metropolitana. From Iglesia de La Candelaria, it is about a five-block walk to Parque Bolivar where Catedral Basílica Metropolitana is located.
The fifth church on our itinerary is Iglesia San Antonio. From Catedral Basílica Metropolitana, it is a pretty long walk to Iglesia San Antonio (about 20 minutes), so a taxi is recommended.
After visiting Iglesia San Antonio, it is worth stopping in Plaza San Antonio to see the Fernando Botero sculptures.
The Bottom Line
Medellín has many beautiful churches that are worth seeing, and we picked five that are distinctive and notable for our list of the top five churches, which we believe are worth seeing.
We covered the notable churches in Medellín in a series on this website earlier this year as we have found that most of the beautiful churches in the city are unfortunately missing from the travel guidebooks of Colombia.
For example, two of the churches on our list of the top five churches in Medellín (Iglesia Jesús Nazareno and Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Rosario) are not found in any of the seven travel guidebooks I have about Colombia.