For centuries, this doorway served to keep invaders out of the city. Today, you can walk through the La Puerta de San Juan to explore and experience the splendor and romance of this elegant and vibrant city. The experience through the door is more magical if you start your walk through Paseo La Princesa. If you reach it from inside the city, you’ll be greeted with a view of San Juan Bay. From either direction, be prepared to be wowed by the magic and splendor of the city.
The first thing you will notice as you approach the gate is the inscription Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini. The verse comes from The Sanctus, “Holy”, a Latin hymn from Catholic liturgy.
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua.
Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
Hosanna in excelsis Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth;
heaven and earth are full of thy glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord
Hosanna in the highest.
There were 6 gates around the city. La Puerta de San Juan is the only one remaining, making it a precious historic landmark in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. The gate was named in honor of Saint John the Baptist. As you walk through it, pause and notice how thick the city walls are. As soon as you pass the gate, you’ll find vendors at the corner of the street with refreshments including Puerto Ricans’ favorite, the piragua. If you’re just starting your walking tour, get ready to experience the romance and splendor of the old city. We encourage you to start your tour by walking straight up the hill on a narrow cobblestone street with beautifully restored Spanish colonial buildings painted in bright colors, and with elegant balconies and doors. Old trees provide cool shade as you walk up the same path that Spanish dignitaries once walked upon entering the city. Dignitaries then went straight into Catedral San Juan Bautista, better known as San Juan Cathedral, in order to thank God for a safe voyage.
Access to and from San Juan was controlled through five gates, or puertas, within the 3 mile wall that enclosed the city. Each gate had a different function. This gate was San Juan’s formal or symbolic entrance. Materials, supplies, and everyday traffic entered through other gates. Guards secured the gate at night. If you were outside when the gates closed, you remained outside until they reopened in the morning.