The Old Cathedral of Managua (Catedral de Managua) is a spectacular ruin whose gilded neoclassical facade still stands but insides were devastated in a 1972 earthquake that shook Nicaragua. Though visitors are not allowed inside, the cathedral’s striking beauty and historical significance make a visit worthwhile.
Inspired by the Saint-Sulpice Church (Eglise Saint-Sulpice) in Paris, this impressive edifice is both an enduring symbol of Nicaragua’s past and a testament to the strength of natural forces. But don’t expect pews and prayers. Though you can peek inside at the cathedral’s original tapestries, statues, and other decor through barred windows, entrance is forbidden due to safety concerns and questions about the structure’s post-earthquake integrity. Instead, take a lap around the outside of the never-restored ruins to admire its bell tower, clock tower, and pediment, which were designed and constructed in Belgium in 1920 before being shipped to Nicaragua.
Easily combine a trip to the cathedral with other nearby attractions like the neighboring National Palace (Palacio Nacional de la Cultura) and the monuments of Plaza de la República on a Managua walking tour, or visit as part of a larger Managua city sightseeing tour for an in-depth understanding of the area’s historical and cultural significance, as well as easy logistics.
Things to Know Before You Go
The cathedral interior is closed to the public, but the exterior grounds can be visited.
The cathedral is also sometimes referred to as St. James’ Cathedral (Catedral de Santiago) or the Antigua Catedral de Managua.
The old cathedral ruins are a must for history buffs and first-time visitors to Managua.
Plan your visit around the opening hours for the National Palace (Palacio Nacional de la Cultura) or House of Peoples (Casa de los Pueblos) to make the most of the trip.
How to Get There
The Old Cathedral of Managua is located just a block from the malecón (sea wall) in northwestern Managua. Take one of the city’s many inexpensive taxis, or ride the bus to the National Palace (Palacio Nacional de la Cultura).
When to Get There
An outdoor attraction open year-round, the Old Cathedral is best visited alongside other nearby Managua attractions.
Though the Nicaraguan government has long promised to restore the cathedral to its former glory, funding issues have prevented any progress. A new initiative backed by Mexican and Italian engineers will take another look to determine the feasibility of restoration. Meanwhile, the New Cathedral of Managua (La Nueva Catedral) was built in 1993 to take its place.