500 years after its construction, Antigua’s Iglesia de San Francisco el Grande is still an integral part of the city’s religious and cultural identity. Granted much of its 16th century foundations have been destroyed by centuries of earthquakes and other natural forces, but even its reconstructed parts constitute a structure that can impress on a variety of levels. First and foremost among these is the church’s significance as the final resting place of Saint Pedro de Betancur, the first canonized Central American. On any given day, you’re likely to see a dozen or more pilgrims coming to pay their respects to the late friar and beseech his miraculous intervention. Come on a Sunday and you’ll also be able to experience weekly Mass in the cathedral, which is a beautiful spectacle no matter what your spiritual affiliation happens to be.
More interested in San Francisco’s cultural goings on? Well, there’s an on-site museum that will give you access to the oldest parts of the church (arches, bell-tower, etc.), though to be honest a walk through the beautifully adorned interior, with its collection of paintings and sculptures, is museum-esque in its own right. There are also regular market-style vendors selling items like candles and hand-woven blankets within the church’s outer gates throughout the week. At the very least, take a few minutes to stop and admire the exterior beauty of one of Antigua’s most notable architectural landmarks.