San Fernando Cathedral, located at 231 W Commerce Street in Downtown San Antonio, is one of the oldest cathedrals of the Roman Catholic Church in the US. The Cathedral faces the city’s Main Plaza. It is the mother church of the Archdiocese of San Antonio and the seat of its archbishop. Its dome serves as the city of San Antonio’s cultural and geographical center. The cathedral, also known as the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria y Guadalupe, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Considered one of the oldest cathedrals in the United States, its first part, the original church of San Fernando, was built between 1738 and 1750. The walls of that church today form the sanctuary of the Cathedral.
The San Fernando Cathedral is the home to various events, unique concerts, and symphonies that happen every year. Some of those events include involvement in annual celebrations such as the Fiesta Week.
Mass, celebrated each week, involves around 5,000 participants and all services, including baptisms, weddings, funerals and various others, are available and served on a grand scale. The place is a tourist destination visited by thousands every year, especially during the staging of the Good Friday Passion Play.
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The beginning of the temple goes back to the early 1700s when a group of 15 families from the Canary Islands came to the area upon the invitation of King Phillip V of Spain to found the church and Christianize the region. The original building, constructed from 1738 to 1750, immediately became the heart and center of the religious, social, and cultural life of San Antonio at that time. Even now, it is an important center of religious and cultural activity for the Catholic church and community of the city.
A historically interesting detail is that the baptismal font, the oldest piece of liturgical furnishing in the cathedral was, according to some historians, a donation from Charles III who was king of Naples and Sicily and, later of Spain.
The cathedral has undergone several expansions and renovations during the centuries until the present. In 2003, a significant renovation started that included stabilization of the church´s structure and foundations as well as modern improvements such as a movable platform where the altar was relocated. A new Cathedral Centre which houses a small cafeteria, counseling rooms, museum, gift shop, reception room, television control room and vesting sacristy also formed part of this modernization effort. Other facilities included a community center to house community and social services, meeting rooms, a hall, church offices, and a residence for the priests.
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Locals and tourist coincide that the area is safe to visit. The church relies on volunteer ushers to maintain security as well as on an ever-present San Antonio Police Department bike patrol that is vigilant about visitor´s safety in the place.
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