Iglesia San Antonio is a notable and historic Roman Catholic church located in El Centro in Medellín, which is worth seeing. The church is best known for its large dome, which is reportedly the largest dome found in Medellín. The dome in the church is also one of the largest domes found in Colombia.
The church is located next to Plaza San Antonio, which is also worth seeing. Plaza San Antonio has four Fernando Botero sculptures including one that has a violent history, as seen later in this article. Iglesia San Antonio is one of the oldest churches in Medellín. And it’s a hidden gem that isn’t visited by many tourists, as it’s only found in one out of 10 English language Colombia travel guidebooks I have.
Iglesia San Antonio is one of the most traditional churches found in El Centro, yet it’s one of the least visited. It’s as if people only recognize the large church dome as a reference point and nothing more.
In addition, we included Iglesia San Antonio in our list of the top 14 churches in Medellín and the Aburrá Valley.
History of Igelsia San Antonio
Iglesia San Antonia is a Renaissance style church that is dedicated to San Antonio de Padua.
The architect for the church was Filipe Crosti and it was built over a period from 1874 to 1902. Father Frey Benjamin Maschiantonio was instrumental in getting what was originally a Franciscan church built.
The church underwent a major renovation over a period of nearly two decades from 1929 to 1945. During this time, the large dome was added to the church as well as additional altars and the organ.
Several decades ago Iglesia San Antonia went from being a church open all the time for the community that surrounded it to a church that opens to the people only during certain hours. This is due to many of the houses in this area in El Centro having disappeared decades ago leaving behind mainly commercial businesses.
The Roman Catholic parish for the church was created by Archbishop Monseñor Tulio Botero Salazar in August 1961. And its first parish priest was the Fray Bernardo Saldarriaga.
Inside Iglesia San Antonio
Inside the church you will find a beautiful interior that is white and red with some gold trim. Most noteworthy is the large dome in the church, which has some simple stained-glass windows as well as some artwork near the dome. Also, there are many pieces of religious artwork to be found throughout this church.
Similar to many other churches in the city, Iglesia San Antonio has confessionals that are found along the right and left aisles in the church.
In addition, the organ in the church is located on the second floor.
Plaza San Antonio
Iglesia San Antonio is located next to Plaza San Antonio in El Centro. Plaza San Antonio is also known as Parque San Antonio but it’s really both a plaza and a park. It’s a park next to the church and also a large plaza where four of Fernando Botero sculptures are located, and concerts are sometimes held.
The plaza area is notorious for a deadly bomb attack in the mid 1990s. On June 10, 1995, a bomb was placed in “The Bird” Botero sculpture located on the plaza and it detonated when a concert was going on.
The dynamite and shrapnel bomb reportedly weighed about 20 pounds. When it detonated the result was 23 deaths and more than 200 wounded. The names of 22 men, women and children killed in the bombing are currently on a plaque below “The Bird” statue. In addition, one woman who was killed in the attack remains unnamed.
The bomb attack reportedly occurred one block away from a police barracks. And no group claimed responsibility for it. But guerrilla groups like the FARC and gangs of cocaine traffickers were suspected as they had engaged in such acts of terrorism in the past in Colombia.
The explosion of the bomb came about 24 hours after the chief of the Cali cocaine cartel was arrested by a joint army and police search squad. But no connection to the bombing was confirmed. Also, Botero’s son, Fernando Botero Zea, was Colombia’s Minister of Defense at the time of the bombing.
After the bombing, in 2000, Fernando Botero created and donated an identical sculpture and placed it next to the original “Wounded Bird” sculpture. The new sculpture is titled El Pájaro de la Paz (The Bird of Peace). The reasoning behind not removing the original bird sculpture damaged by the bombing is that Medellín would not learn from its violent past. There are two additional Botero sculptures located in Plaza San Antonio.
West of the plaza is located a small park (Parque San Antonio) that is next to Iglesia San Antonio.
In addition, next to the church at the end of Plaza/Parque San Antonio there is a picturesque pedestrian bridge that crosses San Juan street.
Parque and Plazas in Medellín
On the Medellin Guru website, we have looked at nine different parks and plazas in the Medellín and Aburra Valley area:
- Parque Lleras – the top nightlife district in Medellín
- Parque Sabaneta – arguably the nicest park in the Medelllín metro area
- Piedras Blancas – an ecological park near Medellín worth visiting
- Plaza Botero – a popular outdoor plaza with 23 sculptures by Fernando Botero
- Plaza Cisneros – Parque de las Luces, Medellín’s Park of Lights in El Centro
- Jardín Botánico – the popular Medellín botanical gardens
- Plaza San Antonio – a large plaza with four Fernando Botero sculptures and sometime has concerts
- Cerro el Volado – a huge park with incredible views of Medellín
- Cerro Pan de Azucar – a park with amazing views of Medellín
How to Get to Iglesia San Antonio
Iglesia San Antonio is located in El Centro about three blocks from the San Antonio metro station on Line A. The walk to the church from this metro station has some small shops and restaurants along the way.
In addition, the church is located about three blocks from the Alpujarra metro station on Line A. Also, just about any taxi or Uber driver in Medellín will know where Plaza San Antonio and Iglesia San Antionio are located.
Iglesia San Antonio isn’t open all the time. In my experience, it’s typically open in the mornings. But I saw no mass schedule posted in the church. So, we recommend calling before going to make sure it is open.
There is normally a noticeable police presence in Plaza San Antonio. However, take care as street crime is common in El Centro, particularly after dark.
Address: Carrera 48 # 44-55A, El Centro
Phone: +57 4 511 7374
The Beautiful Churches in Medellín and the Aburrá Valley
In the metropolitan Medellín metro area (Aburrá Valley), there are over 300 Roman Catholic churches. Most notably, there is a complete list of all the churches of the Archdiocese of Medellín.
We have looked at a total of 33 beautiful churches in the Medellín metro area and the Aburrá Valley in a series on this website. And 22 of the churches we have looked at in detail are in Medellín:
- Catedral Basílica Metropolitana – the main church of the Archdiocese of Medellín and the largest church in the city.
- Iglesia de La Candelaria – the oldest church in Medellín, which is also a National Monument of Colombia.
- Iglesia San Antonio and Plaza San Antonio – the church with the largest dome in Medellín located next to Plaza San Antonio with four Fernando Botero sculptures.
- Iglesia Jesús Nazareno – another of the most beautiful churches in Medellín.
- Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro – a beautiful Gothic-style church in Medellín.
- Iglesia del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús – a neo-Gothic-style church located in Barrio Triste in Medellín.
- Iglesia de San José – a Boroque-style church located in El Centro, Medellín.
- Iglesia del Señor de las Misericordias – a neo-Gothic-style church located in the Manrique neighborhood of Medellín.
- Iglesia San José – a Romanesque-style church located next to Parque Poblado in El Poblado.
- Iglesia de la Veracruz – a colonial church with a history that goes back to 1682, which makes it one of the oldest churches in Medellín.
- Iglesia de San Ignacio – a beautiful church in El Centro with a Baroque-style exterior and colonial interior.
- Iglesia de Nuestra Señora – a Roman-style church located next to Parque Belén in Medellín.
- Iglesia el Calvario – a Romanesque-style church in the Aranjuez comuna in Medellín.
- Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Sufragio – a neo-Romanesque-style church in the Boston barrio in Medellín.
- Iglesia de San Benito – a neo-Romanesque-style church with a history that traces back to 1678, which make it one of the oldest churches in Medellín.
- Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores – a Neo-Byzantine-style church in the La América comuna in Medellín.
- Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Sagrado Corazón – a beautiful Neo-Gothic-style church in the Buenos Aires comuna in Medellín.
- Iglesia de Cristo Rey – a beautiful church in the Guayabal comuna of Medellín with many beautiful stained-glass windows.
- Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores – a beautiful Neoclassical-style church in the Robledo comuna of Medellín, which is also a National Monument of Colombia.
- Iglesia del Cementerio San Pedro – a beautiful church built in 1929 that has some of the most beautiful stained-glass windows found in the churches in Medellín.
- Iglesia de El Niño Jesús de Praga – a beautiful church in the Villa Hermosa comuna in Medellín.
- Iglesia San Joaquín – a beautiful church in the Laureles-Estadio comuna in Medellín that is reportedly the second largest church in Medellín.
Also, we have looked at the principal church in each of the other nine municipalities in the Aburrá Valley:
- Iglesia de Santa Gertrudis – a beautiful church in Envigado located next to Parque Envigado.
- Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Rosario – a church located in Bello that is arguably the most beautiful church in the Aburrá Valley
- Iglesia de Santa Ana – a very popular church in Sabaneta located next to Parque Sabaneta.
- Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Rosario – a historic church in Itagüí near Medellín with a history that traces back to 1743.
- Nuestra Señora Chiquinquirá – a beautiful church in La Estrella with a Neo-Gothic-style.
- Catedral Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes – a Neoclassical-style church with a history that traces back to 1793 and is located in the Caldas municipality south of Medellín.
- Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción – a Baroque-style church with a history that traces back to 1715 and is located in the Copacabana municipality north of Medellín.
- Catedral de Nuestra Señora del Rosario – a Neo-Romanesque-style church located in the Girardota municipality northeast of Medellín.
- Iglesia de San Antonio de Padua – a Neo-Romanesque-style church located in the Barbosa municipality northeast of Medellín.
Also, we looked at two smaller colonial-style churches while looking in detail at two nearby larger churches:
- Hato Viejo Chapel – a colonial-style church in Bello built between 1772 and 1796. It’s also a National Monument of Colombia. We looked at Hato Viejo Chapel while covering Nuestra Señora del Rosario.
- Capilla de María Auxiliadora – a colonial-style church in Barbosa built between 1773 and 1776. We looked at Capilla de María Auxiliadora while covering Iglesia de San Antonio de Padua.
In addition, we looked at Las Lajas Sanctuary located in Ipiales, Colombia, which is considered the most beautiful church in Colombia. Also, it’s considered by many to be one of the most beautiful churches in the world.
The Bottom Line: Iglesia San Antonio and Plaza San Antonio
Iglesia San Antonio is found in only one out of 10 English language Colombia travel guidebooks I have. But it’s worth seeing this church as well as nearby Plaza San Antonio with its Botero sculptures including the bombed sculpture.
Unfortunately, in my experience, most travel guidebooks in English about Colombia are missing many of the best places in the cities and pueblos in Colombia.
Consequently, we have covered the beautiful churches in the Medellín metro area in a comprehensive series on this website. Most noteworthy, we did this since a majority of the beautiful and notable churches in the city are missing from the English-language travel guidebooks about Colombia.
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