The church of San Jose is one of the rare gothic churches in the New World. Construction started in 1530 after governor Juan Ponce de León donated the land for the San Jose square, the church and the Dominican Convent next door.
The church’s gothic architecture is breathtaking. Puerto Rico’s most famous painter José Campeche is buried at “Iglesia San José” as was originally Juan Ponce de León. The wooden crucifix that hangs over the church’s altar was donated by Ponce de León in the 16th Century. And the 15th Century altar was built to order in Cadiz, Spain.
The fact that the church has never been restored is both a blessing and challenge. The immense amount of work and resources that will be required to return the structure to its original splendor is beyond imagination. But the fact that it has never been touched also makes things a lot easier from the restoration standpoint.
The Church of San José is by no means the oldest church in San Juan. That honor goes to San Juan Cathedral that predates it by a few years and is probably the oldest cathedral in the New World. However, the original San Juan Cathedral was destroyed by a hurricane and the present day building only dates back to the 1800’s.
San José church is presently undergoing restoration and it is closed to the public until further notice.