The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (Spanish: Catedral Metropolitana de la Purisima Concepcion), referred to as the New Cathedral (La Nueva Catedral), is located in Managua, Nicaragua. It was dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of Maria.
Construction began in 1991 in substitution of the Old Cathedral of Managua or Cathedral of Santiago. The old cathedral was damaged and thought to be unrestoreable after a 1972 earthquake that destroyed 90% of the city.
The cathedral was designed by architect Ricardo Legorreta. Construction to build the cathedral began around August 1991 and it was inaugurated on September 4, 1993. The cost of the newly built cathedral was estimated at $4.5 million dollars. The new cathedral has created much controversy, particularly about its architectural style and finance. Locals refer to it as La Chichona on account of the plethora of cupolas adorning it like so many "chiches" (Spanish: slang for breasts).
The design recognizes that the role of the contemporary Catholic community has passed from passive to participatory in relation to the ecclesiastical authorities. The architectural integration of the altar and the assembly, and their physical proximity, follow this concept. For this reason the highest dome is located at the center of the congregation, not above the altar. This provides solemnity without resorting to monumentalism and ostentation while creating a scale in which worshipers will feel peaceful when alone, in small groups, or as part of a large congregation. The 63 domes evoke this range of scales and provide light and ventilation.
Three kinds of activities take place in the cathedral: several times a year the cardinal celebrates mass from the exterior altar 100,000 that gather in the esplanade; periodic ceremonies take place in the cathedral: several times a year the cardinal celebrates mass from the exterior altar above the main door to congregations of about the main door in the esplanade; periodic ceremonies take place in this main space; and daily mass is celebrated in the chapel.
The venerated image of the Sangre de Cristo is located in a dedicated circular chapel. Its shape, illumination, candlelight, and color respond to Nicaraguan spiritual life. To provide protection against earthquakes, the walls are of reinforced concrete, chiseled by hand to represent the heroic strength of the people. The handmade cement tiles of the floor create a colored carpet of geometric forms. Colored screens emanate a special light throughout the interior, and the massive wood doors continue the imposing language of the exterior.
The cathedral’s design and construction were driven by human and spiritual vales, with the goal of offering the Nicaraguan people a place of hope, love, and prayer.