Capilla del Cristo Chapel, Old San Juan: Uncommon Attraction
Old San Juan is a treasure trove of historic sites. Many of them are steeped in spiritual legends and traditions that date back hundreds of years. The Capilla del Cristo Chapel is my favorite.
Formally known as the Capilla del Santo Cristo de la Salud, the Cristo Chapel sits atop the ancient wall that once protected OSJ. Its location at the very south end of Cristo Street is just a short walk from the grand San Juan Cathedral. Cristo Chapel is much more humble, of course, though it’s no less hallowed.
Capilla del Cristo Chapel was built in the mid- to late-1700s. Before that time, anyone venturing toward the south end of Cristo Street needed to be careful. The problem: nothing was in place there to prevent people from falling off the towering wall to their deaths.
In fact, just such a fate once seemed assured for the man who constructed Cristo Chapel.
Capilla del Cristo Chapel Legend
I learned the local legend from the guy in the photo. He told me that builder found himself one day riding aboard a runaway horse. No one knows what spooked the horse. As it was heading straight toward the south end of Cristo Street, though, all assumed it would be the builder’s last ride.
Try as he might, the builder just could not get the horse to stop. As the steep drop drew closer, the man prayed to God, begging for salvation. Suddenly, at the very last instant, the horse stopped… directly on the spot where Cristo Chapel now sits.
The Miracle The Begat The Chapel
The event was seen as a miracle, which was marked by the construction of the Chapel. It took 23 years to build the small and simple structure.
Today, nearly 250 years later, Capilla del Cristo Chapel remains an enduring symbol of faith… and one of Old San Juan’s most unique attractions.
Antonio, Capilla del Cristo Chapel Storyteller (and Accordionist)
As for the guy in the photo, his name is Antonio. Born in a private home just a few blocks from Cristo Street, this 70 year-old man comes to this spot just about every day to play his accordion for anyone who happens by.
If you have the time, he’s good for an interesting story or two as well…