The original structure of the Metropolitan Cathedral was built in 1745; it was given a new facade with carvings telling the story of Jacob and his son Joseph and was designated a cathedral in 1836. The look of the cathedral was changed from a traditional Spanish colonial look to a Greek-revival style at that time, with a pediment and colonnade in front, though the sides, back, and exterior dome remain similar to the original. Inside lies an ornate mausoleum containing the remains of General José de San Martín, the South American liberator regarded as the "Father of the Nation." (San Martín fought successfully for freedom in Argentina, Peru, and Chile alongside the better-known Simón Bolívar.) His body was moved here in 1880 to become a rallying symbol of Argentina's unification and rise to greatness when Buenos Aires became the capital of Argentina at the end of a long civil war. The tomb of the unknown soldier of Argentine independence is also here, and an eternal flame burns in remembrance. Among the chapels of note is the one on the east side of the cathedral with a statue of Jesus with the notation, "Santo Cristo del Gran Amor," or the Holy Christ of Great Love. It was donated in 1978 by an Argentine soccer player whose family had disappeared. He swore he would donate a statue to the church if they were ever found, and they were. While Argentina is a strongly Catholic nation, it is not very big on ritual. However, the most important midnight Mass in Argentina occurs in this church. Called the "Noche Buena," it is held every December 24, generally at 10pm, but call the cathedral to make sure of the exact time.
- © Frommer's 2013
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