The Saint Romero El Salvador Tour
Follow the historic trail of Oscar Romero in 2018
Oscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdamez, the fourth Archbishop of El Salvador, was tragically murdered on 24 March 1980 during unrest that occurred just before the country's twelve year civil war.
Now, over fourty years later the Salvadoran government are promoting Saint Romero El Salvador tours, which can be done as a guided tour or by yourself, using the information provided in this article.
I would like to tell you a little about who Oscar Romero was, what events led to his death and how he has been honored since then.
Join me as we take a trip to each of the ten sites that are being promoted on the Archbishop Romero tour, where you can learn about the importance of each of them and why they were chosen.
Who Was Oscar Romero
Who Was Archbishop Romero?
Oscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdamez was born in Ciudad Barrios, which is situated in the San Miguel department of El Salvador, on August 15 1917.
One of six children, Oscar's father encouraged him to train to be a carpenter, but despite showing much promise he felt a calling to the church and at the age of thirteen he entered the Catholic Seminary in San Miguel. From there he went to San Salvador and then on to Rome, where he completed his studies and was ordained a Catholic priest on April 4 1942.
Arriving back in El Salvador, Oscar Romero was made a parish priest in Anamoras before spending twenty years in San Miguel.
By 1970 he had been appointed auxiliary bishop to Luis Chavez y Gonzalez, the San Salvador Archbishop, and at the end of 1975 he became Bishop of Santiago de Maria, a rural area of El Salvador that included the town where he was born.
Less than two years later, on February 23rd 1977, Bishop Romero was made Archbishop of El Salvador, a post that he would hold for little over three years.
His appointment to Archbishop was not popular amongs the other Salvadoran bishops, who saw him as being too conservative, but he was a popular choice with the government.
Little was he to know that before long the country he loved would be embroiled in violence and he would end up paying the ultimate sacrifice with his life.
A time to reflect on the life of Oscar Romero
So what made Oscar Romero, considered by many to be a safe option as a member of El Salvador's Catholic elite, a man seen as conservative and unlikely to cause problems with the influential aristocracy, become transformed into a campaigner for justice for Salvadorans, which would ultimately cost him his life?
Three years after Romero was made Archbishop, in 1980, El Salvador was spiralling towards what would end up being a twelve year civil war between the Junta Revolucionaria de Gobierno, who had overturned the government a few months previously and a collaboration of five left wing guerrilla groups known collectively as the FMLN (Farabundo Marta National Liberation Front).
It was February 1980, and Archbishop Romero was saddened to see his beloved country's escalating violence, and in February he wrote and published an open letter to President Jimmy Carter, begging him to stop all financial and military aid to the Salvadoran government, in an attempt to halt the attrocities.
On March 23 1980 Romero made a speech that called upon Salvadoran soldiers and police to disobey their orders and refuse to murder their fellow countrymen.
The following day, on March 24, whilst taking mass at the Divine Providence Hospital, Archbishop Romero was shot dead, in front of his congregation.
The Romero El Salvador Tour
Tourist Site Tips
The Romero Destinations
San Salvador is the capital city of Central America's smallest country, El Salvador, and is home to over half a million people, in a country of little over six million people in total.
This is the city where Oscar Romero lived and worked during his brief time as Archbishop of El Salvador, and here you can visit places that were important in his life:
1: Metropolitan Cathedral
2: Divine Providence Hospital Chapel
3: The Sacred Heart Basilica
4: El Rosario Church
5: The Romero Center
The five other places to visit on the Romero tour are more background interest, and can be visited if you have sufficient time.
6. National Palace
7. Monument to the Divine Saviour of the World
8. David J Guzman Museum of Anthropology
9. Romero Sanctuary
10. Paseo El Carmen
The areas where he lived and worked before becoming Archbishop are not being covered by the tour, but if you have sufficient time it would be possible to visit Ciudad Barrios, where he was born, and the city of San Miguel where he served as a parish priest for many years.
The 5 Significant Romero Sites
1: Metropolitan Cathedral
Visit Saint Romero's Tomb
- Opening Times: Monday and Wednesday to Saturday from 10:00 - 12:00 and 14:30 - 17:00 and all day on Sundays
- Address: is Calle Ruben DariÂo, frente a Plaza Civica, contiguo a Plaza Barrios
- GPS Coordinates: N13.69859, W -89.19111
- Parking:There is a secure car park in the cathedral grounds, either side of the cathedral, costing about 50 cents for an hour .
- You can also leave your car here while you walk to the National Palace and El Rosario church.
The cathedral in the capital city would have a great importance in the life of the country's Archbishop, and it was here that Oscar Romero was laid to rest the week after his murder, on March 30 1980, which was also Palm Sunday.
More than a quarter of a million people attended the funeral, travelling from all over the world to pay their last respects to the Archbishop.
Pope John Paul II was represented at the funeral by Mexican cardinal, Corripio Ahumada, who said that "his blood will give fruit to brotherhood, love and peace."
As the funeral ceremony was being held there were explosions nearby that was quickly followed by gunfire, leaving up to fifty people dead and almost as many injured.
Chaos descended on the area surrounding the cathedral, and approximately seven thousand people rushed inside to take refuge, squashing into an area that usually holds a maximum of three thousand people.
Today you can visit his tomb which is prominently situated in the crypt, and pay your respects to this great man just as Pope John Paul II did in 1983 and 1996, and more recently US President Obama in 2011.
There has been a church in central San Salvador since the seventeenth century, but it was not until 1842 that it was elevated to cathedral status.
Unfortunately twelve years later the church was severely damaged by bad weather and then in 1873 an earthquake destroyed the remains.
The cathedral was rebuilt in 1888, using wood that gave the building more flexibility during earthquakes. Unfortunately the second cathedral was destroyed by fire in 1951.
In 1956 work began on a third cathedral, and this is the one that stands today. Third time lucky so far, it has escaped the ravages of tropical storms, earthquakes and fires!
The front of the cathedral was adorned with mosaic tiles that were specially designed by Salvadoran artist Fernando Llort. Unfortunately if you visit the cathedral today you will see a plain facade as the current Archbishop of El Salvador had the tiles removed in 2011, without consulting the people or government of El Salvador, an action that received a public outcry.
The church was not fully finished until 1999, some nineteen years after Romer'os death, but was in use during his lifetime.
2: Divine Providence Hospital Chapel
- Public Open Times: Monday to Friday from 08:00 - 12:00 and 14:00 p.m - 16:30.
- Mass Times: 17:00 on Mondays to Saturdays and at 09:00 and 17:00 on Sundays.
- Contact Details: email@example.com
- Address: Final Calle Toluca y Avenida Rocio, Colonia Miramonte. San Salvador.
- GPS Coordinates: N 13.711307, W -89.223136
Divine Providence Hospital
Romero lived at the Divine Providence Hospital during the 1970s and 80's, living alongside the resident Carmelite nuns who provide care for cancer patients.
The day after the Archbishop made his speech, imploring the Salvadoran soldiers not to kill their fellow Salvadorans, Romero led a funeral mass for the mother of a friend at the chapel in the Divine Providence hospital.
As the service drew to a close, and Romero lifted the chalice and prepared to take Holy Communion, gunfire sounded and a single bullet hit him in the heart.
It was here, in the place that he loved, amongst people he saw as his family, that he was killed.
This is a truly peaceful place to visit, and one that gives us time to stop and reflect on what Romero gave up for his beliefs.
3: The Sacred Heart Basilica
Romero's Last Sunday Mass
- Address: Calle Arce and 13 Avenida Norte (very close to the cathedral)
- GPS Coordinates: N 13.700279, W -89.198138
- Opening Hours: Monday to Friday, 08:00 -12:00 and 14:00 -17:00 and Saturday,08:00 -12:00.
- Parking: available on site at a cost of US$ 0.50
The Sacred Heart Basilica
It was here, at the Basilica, that Archbishop Romero took his last Sunday mass on 23rd March 1980.
He chose to use the mass to make a very public appeal to his fellow countrymen in his sermon, and listed a number of atrocities that had recently occurred, where many people were murdered.
He then asked his fellow Salvadorans to remember that one of God's central laws was "Thou shall't not kill", imploring the soldiers and policemen to down arms and stop the needless killings.
The very next day Archbishop Romero was shot dead during a funeral mass at the Divine Providence Hospital chapel.
One of the last remnants of nineteenth century Salvadoran buildings, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is an important building in downtown San Salvador.
The bishop of San Salvador, Antonio Adolfo Perez y Aguilar, organised the building of this basilica, and at the beginning of 1901 the inaugural stone was laid, starting a twenty year building schedule.
The building was constructed using European methods, which has so far managed to withstand the country's sizeable earthquakes.
For a period of ten years, from 1989 to 1999, the Basilica acted as San Salvador's principal church whilst construction work was completed on the cathedral.
Three speeches from Archbishop Romero
4: El Rosario Church
Romero preached here
- Address: 4a Calle Oriente and 6a Avenida Sur , opposite Libertad Park.
- GPS coordinates: N 13.697506, W -89.188664
- Parking: available next to the church at a cost of US$ 0.50 per hour or part hour. You can also park on the road directly outside the front of the church if you are not staying long, or alternatively you can park at the cathedral and walk (it's only 1 block away).
Archbishop Romero was known to preach at the El Rosario church, and this impressive building is definitely well worth a visit.
Built between the 1960s and 70's El Rosario church has a modern design and is famous for its magnificent stained glass windows that flood the inside of the church with a kaleidoscope of color.
The Salvadoran sculptor Ruben Martinez designed the chapel, and other monuments in and around San Salvador, including the Christ of Peace Monument
Please do not be put off by the external appearance of this church. With it's very modern concrete appearance it really does not appear to be anything special, but when you step inside you cannot fail to be impressed by the stained glass.
I took a friend to see the church and his comment was "It looks like a bus station!", but once we walked inside he was rendered totally speechless by the colors being projected through the glass windows.
5: The Romero Center
1989 Jesuit Masacre Site
- Address: Universidad Centroamericana, Calle de Mediterraneo, Antigua Cuscatlan.
- Opening Hours: 08:00 - 12:00 and 14:00 - 18:00 Monday - Friday and 08:00 - 11:30 on Saturdays.
- GPS Coordinates: N13.678821, W-89.236037
- Parking: USD $0.70
The Romero Center
The Monsignor Romero Center is situated in the grounds of the Universidad Centro Americana (UCA) in Antigua Cuscatlan, on the outskirts of San Salvador.
This was the site of a massacre in 1989, when six Jesuit priests were killed, along with their housekeeper and her daughter.
As well as the Romero Center there is also the "Hall of Martyrs." where you can view pictures and artefacts of Oscar Romero, and this is most certainly well worth a visit if you are interested in the history of both Romero and the Jesuit priests.
There is also a display of photos that honor the victims of El Salvador's civil war.
The university chapel is called "Jesus Christ the Liberator". and this is where the remains of the Jesuit priests are buried.
Had you heard of Oscar Romero before reading this article?
5 Extra Sites of Interest
to visit if you have time
The National Palace
The National Palace is situated facing Plaza Civica, the same as the Cathedral, and although it does not have any real link to Archbishop Romero it is worth a visit whilst you are in the area.
The gardens at the center are planted with palm trees and tropical flowers, and the area is incredibly peaceful. There are public toilets and seats where you can sit a while and take in the beauty of the architecture. In my opinion a coffee shop would be perfect here, as there is nowhere in the immediate downtown vicinity to have a coffee break.
Originally built in the nineteenth century it was devastated by fire in 1889.
In 1903 the government decided to rebuild and this is the magnificent building that was built.
Because of El Salvador being an active earthquake area most old building have not survived, so you should enjoy what few buildings are left, just in case another earthquake happens and destroys them.
Top Tip: Take a bottle of water with you as you will not find anywhere to stop for a drink break
Address: Avenida Cuscatlan, across the square from the the Metropolitan Cathedral.
GPS coordinates: N 13.697923, W -89.192011
Parking: At the National Library or the cathedral, for approximately US$ 0.50 per hour.
Opening hours: are Monday to Friday 08:00 - 16:00
Admission: USD$1:00 for Central American citizens, USD$3 for foreign nationals and free for students.
Divine Savior of the World Monument
The Savior of the World Monument and statue to Oscar Romero is situated where Paseo General Escalon and Alameda Roosevelt meet, and it is an extremely busy junction.
Sunday morning is probably the easiest time to visit, and I have been able to park alongside the plaza to take photos.
This is probably the most well known icon of El Salvador, with its image appearing on car licence plates and on the now obsolete Colones currency.
Originally seen as a symbol of Salvadoran hope and faith, when it was rebuilt after the devastating 1986 earthquake it signified El Salvador's recovery from such a destructive quake.
It was created in honor of San Salvador's patron, the Divine Savior of the World, in 1942, and the figure that sits on the top was removed from the grave of the former Salvadoran President Araujo to take pride of place on this monument.
Although not considered one of the top five places to visit to honour Romero's life, this is the site of his long awaited beatification, and as such is surely worth a visit.
A Statue to Oscar Romero
- Address: Junction of Paseo General Escalon/Boulevard Constitution/Alameda Manuel Enrique Araujo and Alameda Franklin Delano Roosevelt
- GPS coordinates: N 13.701321, W-89.224488
- Parking: not easily available, but you can stop briefly to take photos if the traffic is quiet. alternatively you could park on the underground car park at Gallerias mall and walk the short distance. If you only want to park to take photos the McDonalds car park, adjacent to the roundabout, makes a good photo vantage point.
National Museum of Anthropology
Address: Final La Revolucion Avenue, Colonia San Benito, San Salvador
GPS Coordinates: N 13.687187, W-89.238682
Parking: available at CIFCO and taxis are usually available in the area..
Open Hours: 0900 - 17:00, Tuesday to Sunday.
Admittance: US$1:00 for Salvadoran and Central American citizens, US$3:00 for foreign nationals and free for children under the age of 8 and elderly people
David J Guzman Museum of Anthropology
Named in honor of David Joaquin Guzman (1843-1927) the Salvadoran scientist, the Anthropology Museum is built in a modern style, and whilst it may not look much from the outside it is considered to be the best museum in El Salvador and is definitely worth a visit.
Located in San Benito, Inside the terracotta colored building you will find two floors that are filled with Salvadoran artefacts.
From El Salvador's Mayan heritage right through to the religiously diverse nation that exists today you will finds lots to look at.
There are five rooms showing permanent exhibitions and one room that houses the temporary exhibitions.
Romero - Download now or buy on DVD
The Romero Sanctuary
The Chacon sisters were close friends of the late Oscar Romero, and if you choose to visit the sanctuary that they run you will be regaled with stories about the Archbishop.
i have never personally taken this part of the tour, but if you are visiting Paseo El Carmen in santa Tecla you could visit the Chacon sisters at the same time.
Address: 4 Calle Poniente, Santa Tecla.
GPS Coordinates: N 13.672301,W -89.29268
Paseo El Carmen, Santa Tecla
Situated just a few miles from downtown San Salvador, at the edge of the greater San Salvador conurbation, is the city of Santa Tecla.
Built as a new capital city for El Salvador in the middle of the nineteenth century, a role that it only held for four years, Santa Tecla is home to several significant buildings and is undergoing a large amount of renovation and rejuvenation.
The main area of rejuvenation centers around the church of El Carmen, a short walk from the Romero Sanctuary. It is not possible to go inside the magnificent church as it was rendered unsafe following an earthquake. Services are now hedl in a new church that was buitl at the side of El Carmen.
If you visit Paseo El Carmen during the day time it does not look anything special. But visit on an evening, especially at the weekend and you will find a hub of activity, with bars, and a street market with food and entertainment.
I can fully understand why President Funes included Paseo El Carmen in the Romero tour, because if you are trying to entice tourists to visit a country that has an international reputation for civil wars and gang violence (and it is important to remember that gang violence has been greatly reduced lately) this really is a safe and pleasant area to visit, and gives tourists chance to buy locally made handicrafts.
Paseo El Carmen is one of my all time favorite places to visit. A five minute drive from my home, it always has something different and exciting to offer, and visiting family and friends that we have taken there always love it too.
- Address: Paseo El Carmen, Santa Tecla
- Parking: Available on the Cafetalon car park which is situated next to the Cafetalon park at one end of Paseo El Carmen. Parking charges are on a sliding scale, dependong on your time of arrival and departure. If arriving before 5pm and leaving at 8pm expect to pay around US0.85.
- GPS Coordinates: Cafetalon car park: N13.67498, W-89.283362, Church of El Carmen: N 13.675485, W-89.288464
- Opening Hours: Saturday is the best time to visit. The street stalls and entertainment begin to set up at around 16:00 and the place is lively until late.
Paseo El Carmen, Santa Tecla
Oscar Romero— Other Tributes
20th Century Martyrs at Westminster Abbey - London, England
If you are not able to visit El Salvador a statue of Archbishop Romero can be viewed at Westminster Abbey in a line up of twentieth century martyrs. The statue was sculpted by John Roberts and unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II in 1998.
A Barry Woods Johnston statue of Oscar Romero can also be seen in the National Cathedral in Washington D.C.
The Canonization of Archbishop Romero
Archbishop Oscar Romero was eventually made a saint, on October 14 2018, but the path to his canonization was a long one.
His sainthood was put on hold, due to political reasons. Usually a person has to have performed a miracle to be considered for sainthood. An alternative path is through martyrdom, and although nobody disagrees that Romero was a martyr, it makes a difference if that martyrdom was "odium fide" which translates as “in hatred of the faith" or whether there were social and political motives driving his actions.
Pope Benedict XVI supported the canonization, and under Pope Francis the obstacles that were stopping its progress were finally "unblocked". His canonization ceremony took place in the Vatican on 14th October 2018, and was celebrated by not just Salvadorans, but many millions of people worldwide.
El Salvador Tributes to Archbishop Romero
When the new highway was opened in 2013, linking the Panamerican highway to the west with the highway that goes to the international airport, it was decided to honor Romero by naming it Boulevard Archbishop Romero (Bulevar Monsenor Romero).
In January 2014 it was anounced in the Salvadoran newspapers that the El Salvador International Airport is to be renamed Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero airport, and on 24th March, the 34th anniversary of Romero's murder a plaque with the new name was unveiled by President Funes