Sunday, April 7, 2013

Oldest Sanctuary

The original church of San Fernando was constructed between 1738 and 1749. This church, called the Colonial Church, still stands today and forms the sanctuary of the San Fernando Cathedral, making it the oldest continuously operating cathedral (or sanctuary) in the United States.

In this sanctuary, the 18th century style retablo "Jesus Christ, Word and Sacrament" serves as a backdrop for the tabernacle and statues of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. This retablo is gilded in 24 carat gold and measures 24'x16'. It and the two retablos below replace the original three which were lost in the great fire of 1828. This chapel area is the principal chapel of devotion for the Cathedral.

La Virgen de la Candelaria Retablo

This retablo frames the statue of Our Lady of Candelaria, a gift from the Canary Islands, chosen by the original settlers as a co-patroness of the original church.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Retablo

This 1740 painting shows the co-patroness of the original church.

In 1868, the Gothic Revival structure was added to the east side of the original colonial church. This added section now forms the nave of the Cathedral.

Statue of the Pieta


The seat of the local bishop which symbolizes his teaching authority in the Catholic Church. A church into which a bishop's official cathedra is installed is called cathedral.
Pipe Organ

In the Choir Loft is the oldest pipe organ in the city of San Antonio, built in 1884 by the renowned organ builder, George Kilgen.
Cristo Negro

A replica of the Black Christ from Esquipulas, Guatemala is a popular devotional shrine in the church. People leave candles, pictures, notes and "milagros" as a way to petition God for help or to give thanks for a favor received. It was brought to San Fernando during the political unrest in Central America in the 1980s.
San Fernando Statue

The painted bronze statue is the oldest statue remaining in the Cathedral. The church was named to honor Ferdinand III, King of Spain, who ruled in the 13th century and was involved in the Crusades.
Remains of the Defenders of the Alamo

This marble sarcophagus contains "the remains of Travis, Crockett, Bowie and other Alamo heroes.

It is often the case that the church is the center of community life, and this was certainly the case with this church.
But San Fernando Colonial Church was literally the center of the community.
There is a stone marker in the floor indicating the official center of San Antonio as specified by a City Council ordinance. All distances to San Antonio are calculated to or from the site in the Colonial Church portion of the Cathedral.

The photo below captured a geometric contrast between the old and new in downtown San Antonio.

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