The main chapel at Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral — Photo courtesy of Tom Walsh
Buenos Aires has a splendid cathedral, which is a testament to how important Catholicism has been in Argentina historically.
Whatever your personal religious beliefs are, a visit to Buenos Aires isn't complete with admiring the architecture and history found in the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral (known as the Catedral Metropolitana de Buenos Aires in Spanish).
It's What's Inside
The exterior of this cathedral can be deceiving; from the outside, you'll see a somber neoclassical building with columns. You could walk by without knowing it was a cathedral at all.
However, once inside, the cathedral is a marvel of soaring ceilings, beautiful stained glass, marble columns and frescoes on the walls.
The Rococo-style altarpiece features the Virgin Mary as well as the Holy Trinity, and the large German organ dates from 1871. Look down to appreciate the Italian-style mosaics that cover the cathedral floor.
The cathedral's floorplan is shaped like a Latin cross. While the church's cornerstone was laid in the 16th century by the city's founder, Juan de Garay, the structure has been rebuilt six times and further improved upon. The cathedral you see today dates from 1791, although it wasn't finally finished until 1910.
If you're Catholic, then consider attending a Sunday service here. Or if you need to get something off your chest, know that the confessionals are staffed by multilingual priests.
Mausoleum of General San Martin
Inside the cathedral, you'll also find the Mausoleum of General Jose de San Martin. Known for leading the forces that defeated the Spanish in the struggle for independence, San Martin is a national hero in Argentina.
The mausoleum is a grand vision of marble sculptures flanking a black sarcophagus draped with an oversized Argentine flag. The entrance is guarded by two soldiers in historic uniforms.
The Pope's Church
Today the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral (the seat of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires) is known as "the Pope's church."
Jorge Mario Bergoglio was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires from 1998 to 2013, the year he was elected and became known as Pope Francis.
A Privileged Location
The Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral is across the street from the Plaza de Mayo, Argentina's most famous square and an important political hub.
It also stands beside some of Buenos Aires and Argentina's most significant buildings, including the Casa Rosada, the nation's presidential palace; the Bank of the Argentine Nation; Buenos Aires' City Hall; and the Cabildo, which was the seat of government in colonial times and today is a museum.