PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI, JAN. 8 -- Thwarted coup-maker Roger Lafontant's headquarters, like the Ton-tons Macoutes militia he symbolized for millions of Haitians, lay in ruins today in the aftermath of political violence that left at least 50 dead and threatened Haiti's transition to democracy.

Also attacked by the mob Monday after the aborted coup was Haiti's Roman Catholic Church, many of whose leaders are unrepentant holdovers from the days of the Duvalier family's dictatorship.

The primary target appeared to be Port-au-Prince Archbishop Francois Wolff Ligonde, a close ally of exiled president-for-life Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier. In a homily last week, the archbishop called President-elect Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a leftist priest and populist, a "socio-Bolshevik" bent on building dictatorship. The prelate's residence was sacked and burned to the ground Monday.

Also destroyed were the Vatican nunciature, the home of the papal legate who is the senior diplomat here, the bishops' conference headquarters and a 387-year-old cathedral that was believed to be the oldest in the Caribbean.

Today, Ligonde and the Vatican nuncio, the equivalent of an ambassador, were in hiding. The church previously had removed Aristide from his congregation.

Some political analysts here questioned whether Aristide -- elected by a landslide last month and due to take office Feb. 7 -- had done everything possible to prevent the violence. In two public appearances Monday, he appealed for calm and expressed support for the army that crushed the coup attempt. But he said nothing explicitly to discourage the anti-Macoute mob violence, which was to have been expected.

"He must have wanted it," said a veteran political observer here. "It sends a signal of what's in store for anyone from the violent old guard who uses force to challenge him."

Lafontant, 55, a medical doctor who kidnapped and held provisional President Ertha Pascal-Trouillot for 10 hours after seizing the National Palace with a handful of men early Monday, remained in military custody today. Mobs in the streets were screaming for his head.

At the headquarters of his Union for National Reconciliation -- a political party whose main constituency is the dreaded private militia of the Duvaliers, the Macoutes -- one man lay dead on the sidewalk, a rope around his neck, flies swarming over his face. Asked the man's identity, the crowd roared, "a Macoute!"

Inside, where until a few days ago Lafontant had held court with his scores of armed toughs, hundreds of milling Haitians were in the final stages of the rampage.

Every stick of furniture was destroyed or carted off. Every electrical socket was yanked from the wall. Bathroom fixtures and pipes lay smashed. A few small boys were reducing the staircase to rubble. An old woman with a bucket of blue paint scrawled anti-Macoute graffiti on the walls.

Twenty-four of Lafontant's colleagues were under arrest, including some prominent members of the Macoutes. The next step, diplomats said, will be to try them on charges of sedition.

"Lafontant's coup attempt is the end for the Macoutes," said a diplomat. "If Lafontant -- the biggest, strongest, wealthiest Macoute -- can't hold on to power after taking the palace and the president . . . then it must be clear to lower Macoutes that they have no chance."

U.S. Ambassador Alvin P. Adams said: "It made it clear once and for all that the Macoutes have discredited themselves."

Haiti's Dec. 16 elections were widely acclaimed as signaling a formal transition to democracy. They were swept by Aristide, 37, who is adored by millions of Haitians for having stood up to the Macoutes and promised to clean house.

Lafontant, who was interior minister in the government of Jean-Claude Duvalier, had vowed never to let Aristide take office, and late Sunday, he acted. After kidnapping Pascal-Trouillot and forcing her to announce her resignation, Lafontant proclaimed himself president and declared martial law.

The army, led by Brig. Gen. Herard Abraham -- pressed in repeated phone calls by Adams and other diplomats -- crushed the coup attempt in a 9:30 a.m. raid on the palace. Had the army not acted, diplomats agreed, it probably would have been the first victim of the mob that was in the streets even before dawn.

"Abraham knew that if the army hadn't resolved it by the morning, the crowds would have," said a diplomat here. "If the crowds saw Lafontant still in the palace and the army not doing anything about it, Abraham himself would probably have been out there with a {burning} tire around his head by mid-morning. That's a very real form of pressure."

What followed was the bloodiest violence that Haiti has seen since 1986, when Duvalier's flight into exile sparked a rampage that left dozens of Macoutes and Duvalierist officials dead.

Today, as gunfire continued in the streets of the capital, most stores and businesses were shuttered, and looters roamed the streets. There were unconfirmed reports that violence was also sweeping Cap Haitien, the second-largest city. Here, the main targets were Lafontant's Macoute followers, who were hacked to death in the streets or burned with gasoline-filled tires around their necks.