Capilla del Santo Cristo de la Salud, otherwise known as the Cristo Chapel, is perched atop the wall that once protected the city of Old San Juan. It is known as one of the old capital’s most beautiful and secluded monuments.
Before the chapel was built, there was nothing but a sheer drop at the end of Cristo Street. According to legend, a local man once found himself riding a runaway horse, heading straight for the drop. He could not get the horse to stop and, as the end of the street grew closer, the man prayed and begged for salvation. Suddenly the horse came to a stop, right on the spot where the chapel now stands.
Another version of the legend states that, in 1753, a rider in the traditional horse race, Baltazar Montanez, lost control of his horse, plunging to the cliffs below. The Spanish Secretary of Government, Don Mateo Pratts, was watching the event unfold from a nearby balcony and cried out “Christ of Good Health, save him!”. The horse did not survive the fall but the man, miraculously survived.
Whichever version of events was true, the incident was seen as a miracle and the man who survived the drop began construction of the chapel that very year. It took 23 years for the chapel to be completed and to this day, around 230 years later, it remains a symbol of faith and one of Old San Juan’s most unique attractions.
Tens of thousands of faithful Puerto Ricans have visited Capilla del Santo Cristo de la Salud to pray for miracle cures. Over the years, visitors to the chapel have brought tiny silver ornaments representing ailing parts of the body. These ‘milagros’, which include miniature silver legs, arms and lungs, now decorate the walls.
Capillo de Cristo is free to enter and is open on Tuesdays from 8am to 5pm.