• Laura Bachmann

Antigua's Iconic Arch

The Santa Catalina Arch (Arco de Santa Catalina) is likely the most distinguishable landmark within Antigua, Guatemala. The iconic saffron colored arch is located on 5th Avenue North near the Main Square over looked by the Agua Volcano. The arch was built with the purpose of connecting the Convent of Santa Catalina Virgen y Mártir to a school in 1693. This allowed the cloistered nuns to remain secluded and unseen while moving about the city, as they were forbidden to interact with the public. With growing numbers of convent members the covered footbridge, the Santa Catalina Arch, was the perfect solution for keeping the spirit of seclusion.

Although the Arch’s construction suffered damages from the prevalent earthquakes in 1773, it remained intact and underwent subsequent restorations. The convent was abandoned in 1776 and not rebuilt until 1850. Later, in the 1890’s during the Central American Federation era, the recognizable clock tower adorning the arch was added. Further restorations were performed in the 1940s, yet the clock suffered additional damages during the 1976 earthquake, and went unrepaired until 1991.

The clock and the tower atop the arch are an attraction of their own. The clock tower dates back to the 19th century and must be wound every three days. The clock must be maintained and wound to keep the clock ticking. The clock works with a system of weights, each over 200 pounds each. The clock’s weights are attached to a mechanism by a rope and pulley system and take 3 days to unwind and the clock’s timekeeper must return the weights to their original location to allow the clock to keep time.

Today, the Arco de Santa Catalina is the Antigua’s most photographed attraction and a traditional rendezvous for New Year’s and Holy Week celebrations. Those traveling to Guatemala for vacation or a quick trip should definitely put Antigua and its iconic Arch on their list of things to do!

Check out our most popular tour, Experience Antigua, and have an up-close encounter with one of Guatemala's rich historic landmarks

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