Viejo San Juan is filled with countless hidden treasures within its ancient stone walls, none more so than in the southwestern corner, where an unassuming chapel offers hope to its visitors as it has done for over 250 years.
Tucked away in the corner of the old walled city of San Juan is a tiny chapel, one of the most beautiful and secluded monuments in the old capital. It was built on top of the ancient stone walls that protected Puerto Rico’s capital in 1753 to celebrate a miracle. Since then, tens of thousands of faithful visitors have come to this humble chapel to pray for cures.
As the story goes, during the San Juan Bautista celebrations of 1753 a rider, Baltazar Montanez, lost control of his horse and plunged to the cliffs below. The Spanish Secretary of Government Don Mateo Pratts was watching the drama unfold from a nearby balcony, and allegedly cried out, “Christ of Good Health, save him!” Though the horse didn’t survive the fall, the young rider did.
That same year, Montanez built the small chapel on the exact spot where he fell over the cliff. The altar was built in shining silver and gold leaf, surrounded by beautiful oil paintings by the famous Puerto Rican artist Jose Campeche. Much of the modestly sized but immaculately appointed chapel hasn’t changed since then. But over the decades it has been slowly added to by believers who come to the chapel seeking their own miracles. Tiny silver ornaments decorate the chapel, each one representing some ailing part of the body. These small milagros, or miracles, represent a cause of pain for the pilgrims, and take the form of miniature silver legs, arms, hearts, and lungs.
Today the church is reverentially cared for by a group of local women, volunteers called “La Hermandad del Santo Cristo de la Salud” (The Sisterhood of the Holy Christ of Health). It is only open on Tuesdays and religious days.
Know Before You Go
The chapel is only open on Tuesdays and religious days.