St. John’s Cathedral dates back to the early 1800s and is the oldest Anglican church in Central America. The cathedral, located in Belize City, is known not only as a house of worship, but also as a symbol of Belize’s colonial past. It was built by slaves with bricks brought to the country as ballast in ships from Europe.
The cathedral was built by slave labor over a period of eight years, when colonial empires were fighting over control of what was then known as British Honduras. Despite its humble facade, this little Anglican church is the only place outside of England where kings were crowned by the British. Four kings of the Indian Miskito tribe, which inhabited the Mosquito coast, were coronated with British ceremonial pomp that rivaled the royal ceremonies of London. This was part of an effort by the British to keep the tribe on their good side and protect power, land, and wealth from Spanish rivals.
Today, with a visit to the cathedral, you can delve into some unique royal history and admire the beautiful stained glass windows, mahogany pews, and antique organ. Tours of Belize City typically include a stop at the cathedral.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The pews and interior structure are made from local hardwoods like mahogany and sapodilla.
- Adjacent to the cathedral is Yarborough Cemetery, the oldest colonial-era cemetery in Belize.
- In 2018, a team completed a restoration project of the church, fixing broken windows and other damaged parts.
How to Get There
St. John’s Cathedral can be found at the intersection of Regent Street and Albert Street, right across the street from the House of Culture. Located in the heart of the city, St. John’s is an easy 10-minute walk from the Swing Bridge. It’s a 30-minute drive from the Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport.
When to Get There
The church is open daily and free to enter. Religious services are still performed, with many locals attending mass on Sunday. During holidays, such as Christmas, the church is adorned with festive decorations. Overall, the best time to visit Belize City is between late November and mid-April during the country’s dry season; this means better weather but more tourists.
Some excursions combine a city tour with a trip to Altun Ha, the ruins of an ancient Maya city. The central area of this archaeological site has more than 500 historic structures, mostly built during the Maya Classic era (AD 200 to 900). The easiest way to get here is to join a tour in Belize City, Crooked Tree, or another nearby city.