Postcard from Merida, Mexico: Home of the first cathedral finished in the Americas

santiago church merida yucatan mexico

Above, Bells at the Top of the Facade of the Santiago Church in Merida

Under supervision of Spanish architects, Mayan laborers began building the Cathedral of Merida in 1562 with stones pillaged from one of their own temples. The cathedral was finished before the close of the 16th century and dedicated to the new outpost’s patron saint, San Ildefonso of Toledo (607-667).

As Ildefonso was conducting Mass in his role of Bishop of Toledo, Spain, brilliant light suddenly illuminated the entire church. Many of the celebrants fled in fear, but those who remained witnessed the Virgin Mary herself descend and enthrone herself at the altar. Grateful for his devotion and defense of her purity, she even gifted him with a splendid vestment, a chasuble, from her own son’s wardrobe. His association with the miraculous illumination must provide Merida with extra excuses to set off fireworks on his feast day, January 23.

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