If you are interested in religious art and old architecture, a visit to the Convento de Porta Coeli church in the town of San German is a must. Convento de Porta Coeli, the second oldest church in the “New World”, was restored by the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, and is now a museum called the Museo de Arte Religioso.
Located in the south-west part of Puerto Rico, San German is a bit off the beaten path, but it is a really neat town to visit. The historic district has loads of wonderful old buildings, and the primary church located on the town plaza is beautiful. If you’re visiting that part of the island, plan a little extra time to make a side-trip to San German.
Some HistoryConvento de Porta Coeli was originally built by Dominican monks built as a monastery in 1609. In 1692, the Friars added a little chapel. There were a few restorations throughout the ages. During the 18th century the convent and chapel were rebuilt, and the Porta Coeli church was constructed.
But time took its toll, the convent was abandoned, and eventually demolished. After a storm seriously damaged the church, it was sold in 1949 to the Puerto Rican government for safe-keeping.
Today, all that remains of the old convent is one ruined wall that is attached to the north side of the church. But the church is good as new, having been restored in 1960 by the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture (Insituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña). It is currently a museum of religious art, housing various paintings and wooden carvings from the 18th and 19th centuries. It was listed on the US National Register of Historic Places as Convento de Porta Coeli in 1976.
Inside the ChurchThe museum itself is not all that big, but they have a number of interesting pieces on display. The pews in the back part of the church were removed to make room for exhibits, while the front part was kept as as it was back in the day.
The religious art and statues that are on display are really beautiful. The original 18th century, carved, Baroque-style tableau (or altarpiece) is still there. There are some really unusual paintings and carvings from through out the 16th century up to current time. There are works from Spanish and Mexican, as well as Puerto Rican artisans are on display. They have informational placards about each piece, but the information is all in Spanish. We found the person at the door was able to answer our questions, in English. Photos are allowed inside, without flash.
Map: GPS (18.081930, -67.041177)