Plaza de la Catedral (Cathedral Square)
The area where the Plaza de la Catedral is located used to be, according to 17th century records, a marshland renewed each year during the rainy season. At the place where the plaza was created, and due to its surface’s properties, the waters became stagnant, so that the place was known at the beginning as Plaza de la Ciénaga (Swamp Square). Nevertheless, around the middle of 16th century, the first requests by the neighbors to buy nearby lots were made, because during the dry season the stagnant waters disappeared and the living conditions improved.
In order to overcome the difficulties that the rainy season meant for communications with the city proper, in the year of 1577 the authorities projected the construction of a wooden bridge. Ten year later, Governor Gabriel Luján wrote to the king due to the widespread drought suggesting the creation of a pond to take advantage of some springs streaming out of the spot where today we find the crossing of San Ignacio Street and Callejón del Chorro.
In 1592 the engineer Juan Bautista Antonelli finished his work on the Zanja Real, the first aqueduct built by the Spanish in America. One of its branches reached to the Callejón del Chorro, next to the Plaza de la Catedral.
In spite of the distribution of the lots at the swamp, and as a request from the crown, the Plaza was not intended for sale or to build on. Until the beginning of the 18th century the square was used for the restocking of the metropolis navy and commercial fleet’s water supplies.
In 1727 the work on the church that would give this plaza a greater importance began. Eventually it came to be known as Plaza de la Catedral (Cathedral Square).
This is one of the most valuable historical sites in the city, especially for its majestic early 18th century houses. A good example of this kind of architecture is the house of the Captain General Luis Chacón, facing the Cathedral. To the west we find the house the former alderman Francisco F. Ponce de León, Third Marquis of Aguas Claras built; later on acquired by the counts of San Fernando de Peñalver. In front of the house of the Marquis of Aguas Claras there are two adjoining houses, one belonging to the Count of Lombillo (corner of Empedrado Street) and the other to the Marquis of Arcos, Royal Treasurer whose name was Diego Peñalver Angulo and who earned the title because of its services during the English siege and occupation. In 1825 the Post Office moved into this house.
All these domestic buildings have been preserved thanks to the mastery of its builders and the quality of the construction materials employed. Wide doors and windows, grilles and huge gates with thick pillars are usual elements in these houses.
Address: San Ignacio y Empedrado