After the Jesuit Iglesia de la Compañía burned to the ground in 1863, Archbishop Rafael Valdivieso decreed what became one of Santiago’s longest ongoing construction projects: It took seven years to lay the cornerstone, three more to start building in earnest, and 19 more before its formal inauguration in 1892. Now a national monument, the massive Basílica del Salvador could hold 5,000 worshippers in an area 89 meters long, 37 meters wide, and 30 meters high.
Elevated to basílica status by Pius XI in 1938, the neo-Gothic structure also contains murals by Aristódemo Lattanza Borghini, bronzes by Virginio Arias, and altars and altarpieces by Onofre Jarpa. Large sections of the building tumbled in the 7.8 earthquake of March 1985, though, and reinforced concrete columns have sadly replaced some finely decorated originals. Rigid metal buttresses support some exterior walls as well, and restoring the basílica will be a long and expensive process. Its main entrance is at Huérfanos 1781.