Severe architecture and imposing dimensions characterize the Cathedral of Merida, Yucatán, which stands majestically in the Historic Center of the city. Built in the 16th century and dedicated to San Idelfonso, it holds the title of oldest in continental America.

Difficult conquest of Yucatan for the Montejo:
Between rebellions, evangelizing campaigns, Mayan uprisings and internal wars, conquering Yucatan was not an easy thing for Francisco de Montejo (father, son and nephew were homonyms); they needed three military campaigns that were carried out in a period of almost 20 years: (1527-1529), (1530-1535), (1540-1545).

Francisco de Montejo "El Mozo" founded the cities of:

San Francisco de Campeche on October 4, 1540;
Merida on January 6, 1542.

Francisco de Montejo "El Sobrino" founded the town of Valladolid on May 28, 1543.

Merida Foundation and lifting of the first temple:
The city of Mérida was solemnly founded on the vestiges of the Mayan city of T'Hó, already uninhabited, on January 6, 1542 by Francisco de Montejo and León "El Mozo ", who had been named "Lieutenant General of Yucatan" by his father the conqueror, explorer and military Francisco de Montejo " El Adelantado ", son of Juan de Montejo and Catalina Álvarez de Tejeda.

It was around this date that "El Mozo" ordered the construction of a place of worship for the Christian faithful. He entrusted the task of finding the most appropriate place for this project to the Reverend Father, Francisco Hernández, and appointed the future temple with the name of "Brotherhood of Our Lady of the Incarnation." This church was simple, roofed with guano and occupied the place where the chapel of San José was located, adjacent to the episcopal palace, current Museum of Contemporary Art , east of the main square.


San Ildefonso, the oldest cathedral in Mexico:
In the middle of the 16th century, when the Colony had acquired greater importance and had sufficient resources and elements, the need arose to build the Church of Mérida in the Cathedral, giving it the title of San Idelfonso, Archbishopric of Toledo .

The construction of the current Cathedral of Merida began on November 16, 1561, by the bull of Pope Pius IV and at the request of King Philip II.

Its construction was relatively fast since it began in 1562 and concluded in 1598 , some time later some details were added as one of the towers and the closing of the main door.

It is not known exactly the day on which the work of the Cathedral was terminated, but on the inside ledge of the dome there is engraved, although it can barely be distinguished, an inscription that says:

“Reigning in Spain and East and West Indies, the majesty of King Felipe second and being governor and captain general in his place - Lieutenant of these provinces D. Diego Fernandez de Velazco, this work is over. Juan Miguel de Agüero was an elder teacher. year of 1598. ”( Source : Catalog of religious constructions of the state of Yucatán).

Architecture of the Cathedral of Mérida:
The Cathedral of San Ildefonso has a sober facade, characteristic of the order of the Franciscans, in which the central door or “of forgiveness” stand out, flanked by the stone sculptures of San Pedro and San Pablo; the Spanish royal shield of Felipe II sculpted in stone, replaced in 1822 by the postcolonial national shield.

Oriented to the east, the Cathedral of Mérida measures more 42 meters high above the level of the atrium; 64.21 meters long and 40 meters wide.

It consists of three ships , one central and two lateral.

Architectural styles : Renaissance, on its facade; Morisco, in its towers and interior, while the altarpieces that it protects between its walls show a baroque style.

The Chapels : Located on the north side, the chapels of the Cathedral of San Ildefonso are:

Christ of the Ampoules (1656), Chapel of Santa Ana, Chapel to the Baptistry (1904).

Until 1916 there were other chapels : Chapel of San José and Chapel of the Rosary that were destroyed in order to separate the cathedral from the headquarters of the Episcopal Palace, today the Museum of Contemporary Art.


Location of the Cathedral of San Ildefonso in Mérida
Calle 60 x 61 y 57 A, Col. Centro, Merida. Yucatan Next to the Plaza Grande.

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