Explore Aruba’s religious historical sites to gain perspective of the island and the spiritual life of its inhabitants. Catholicism is the main religion practiced on the island, but there are also Protestant, Methodist, Baptist and other ministries open for worship.
Follow in the Footsteps of Our Lady of Alto Vista Pilgrimage Journey
The tiny yellow chapel high on the hill calls to you. The first church in the Caribbean, Our Lady of Alto Vista’s small Catholic chapel sits high above on the North Coast in Noord.
Alto Vista means “high view” in Spanish, and a journey there rewards you with exquisite views of Aruba below. The original chapel was built in 1750 by Spanish missionaries who settled there from Venezuela and is the chapel where Indians converted to Christianity. The building was rebuilt in the same spot in 1952.
Imagine following in the path of countless pilgrims who made this journey before you. To reach the chapel on foot, simply follow a winding road dotted with crosses to mark the Stations of the Cross. Or, you can venture on this journey with a group tour in a jeep or on horseback.
There is a sense of peace and consolation inside the chapel’s sacred doors. Open every day to visitors, the chapel also has a weekly Mass at 5 p.m. on Tuesdays.
St. Anna Catholic Church Stands as a Historic Site
One of the most visited historic sites in Aruba, St. Anna Church tells a story of faith, beginning in 1776. The church has undergone three constructions on the same spot, with its final renovation around 1916. In 1928, it received a beautiful 100-year-old, hand-carved neo-Gothic oak altar, rail and pulpit from a church in the Netherlands, which remain a permanent fixture today.
The rectory, erected in 1877, is also the oldest in Aruba, and next to the church is an aboveground cemetery. When you walk through St. Anna, you will stand in awe of its steeple tower, elegant spirals and crosses rising up to the ceiling. Mass is held throughout the week.
Protestant Church — Aruba‘s Oldest House of Worship
Oranjestad’s Protestant Church, built in 1846, is the island’s oldest place of worship. The architecture showcases a square tower, decorated with stars, hearts and wooden shutters. The small Bible Museum is located inside and is open from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday. Services are held on Sundays.
The Jewish Community Is More Than 500 Years Old
Jews have been living in Aruba since the 16th century. In Oranjestad, you can walk through the old Jewish Cemetery, which contains headstones dating back to 1563. In 1924, many Polish Jews fled to Aruba, and after the Holocaust, survivors came to the island build a new life.
In 1962, the Beth Israel Synagogue was founded, which continues to serve the Jewish community as well as visitors today. Experience its beautiful Kabbalat Shabbat services, held at 7:30 p.m. every Friday.
While the warm breezes beckon you to Aruba, visit these historical sites and you’ll come away with a renewed sense of the island’s past.
Photo courtesy of the Aruba Tourism Authority