The San Mateo de Cangrejos Church, one of the oldest on the island, is located in Santurce, a sector of San Juan. Originally, it was the parish church of the Villa de Cangrejos, a settlement founded on the outskirts of the islet of San Juan by fugitive and freed slaves, most of them from English and Danish colonies.
The first religious structure was a chapel that dated to 1729. Later, in 1832, a church was built. In 1886, state architect Pedro Cobreros led the reconstruction of the church, including a new façade and the expansion of the interior. Two towers, divided into three levels, mark the main façade. This design is known as westwerk (a monumental entrance on the western façade with towers, a vestibule and chapel).
The church is oriented north to south, unlike the traditional east to west orientation, with the main entrance facing south. Various curved stairways lead to the main entrance. To the west of the main entrance is a small parish house.
The basilical style of the structure consists of two lateral naves that are divided by an arcade with six cross spaces resting on pillars. Each crossing has a small rectangular window in the clerestory. The nave’s original roof was flat and made of wood, but it was replaced with one of reinforced concrete with massive exposed beams made of the same material. The square apse is covered by a cupola set on pendentives. The marble floors are arranged in a diagonal pattern with respect to the main aisle.
The structure is in good condition and still retains its original size and character. Since 1985, the San Mateo de Cangrejos Parish Church has been on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Adapted by the PROE Editorial Group
Original source: Catalog of Properties, National Registry of Historic Sites, State Office of Historic Conservation, Office of the Governor, 1995.
Apse – Part of the temple that has a vaulted ceiling and is commonly semicircular in shape and extends from the main façade. The altar and presbytery are located there.
Pendentive – Each of the four curved triangles that form the bottom ring of the cupola with the arches that support it.
Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 17, 2014.
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