The Palacio Consistorial, located in the Colonial City / Ciudad Colonial of Santo Domingo, was the original location of the old town hall. It is the oldest Town Hall in The Americas. Not only has this historical building witnessed unrivaled events in the history of The Dominican Republic, but it is also the place where many of the most important decisions of the country have been made.
The Palacio Consistorial was built between 1502 and 1504. It has been remodeled many times during its lifetime in which much of the original facade has been hidden and covered over.
The Palace was remodeled between 1911 and 1913 by the architect Osvaldo Báez Machado (Machado also remodeled the Iglesia de la Altagracia and The Hospital Padre Billini). He changed the edificio to have a neoclassical style that was very popular at that time.
The porch on the ground level runs along the entire building and the second floor boasts a large curved corner balcony and small balconies with iron railing.
Museo de la Villa de Santo Domingo
The interior of the Consistorial, also known as the Museo de la Villa de Santo Domingo, has a large central patio. It is exquisite with the beautiful fountain and surrounding terraces. An elegant staircase rises to the second floor. Along with the busts of the Padres de la Patria (Juan Pablo Duarte, Francisco del Rosario Sanchez and Ramon Matias Mella), there is a beautiful antique grand piano and crystal chandeliers.
In 1939 the exiled Spanish Architect Tomas Auñón made the interior woodwork and trim. In 1944, Vela Zanneti, the great Spanish muralist, made the mural that tells the history of the city. Starting with the loves of Miguel y Catalina up to the Era of Trujillo. The art emphasizes the San Zenón Hurricane that in 1930 marked the beginning of the 31 years of Trujillo’s dictatorship.
The most notable aspect of this historic building, the 95 foot high (29 meter) clock tower / torre del reloj. The tower was added during the time of Trujillo. The top of the tower has a crowned dome known as El Vivaque. The tower has a clock on its front that in old times was an important time peace in the city. Now, it is just for show.
For years the building was part of the Banco de Trabajadores. For a time it was a jail and a police station. Now the building houses Ayuntamiento del Distrito Nacional. It is also a beautiful and elegant space for art exhibitions and cultural activities.
This tower of the Consistorial Palace is an iconic part of the Colonial Zone. If you lose your way in the Colonial Area just look to the sky for this tower with the clock (usually the clock is not working). This unique tower can be seen from most of the surrounding Colonial Zone area. If you become lost or can’t remember how to get back to the Conde just locate the tower and head towards it.
– The building and its tower look like it is leaning towards the street. This, I am told, is an optical illusion.
The Consistorial Palace and the Museo de la Villa de Santo Domingo is on the corner of Calle El Conde and Arzobispo Meriño, at Parque Colon. Just look up and you will see the distinctive tower.
Ruinas Del Hospital San Nicolás de Bari/ Ruins of the Hospital San Nicolas de Bari
The Hospital San Nicolás de Bari, located in the Colonial City of Santo Domingo, was built between 1503 and 1508 by order of the Governor Nicolas de Ovando. It was the first hospital and church built from stone in the New World and is a UNESCO World Heritage protected site.
The Templo y Hospital of San Nicolas de Bari was originally built in November 1503. It was located in the original settlement on the other side of Rio Ozama. When the settlement moved the hospital was rebuilt at its present location. It is said that the hospital was built atop the home of a black woman who nursed the sick.
Governor Nicolas de Ovando ordered the hospital to be rebuilt promptly because there was such a great need. Sickness and disease were prevalent due to the heat, insects and lack of medicines and treatment knowledge. The hospital and doctors center along with the adjoining church, Iglesia Altagracia, was funded entirely by contributions from the more affluent people of the colony.
Changes Throughout The Years
The original hospital was a palm hut. The ladies of the colony who had the desire would come and take care of the sick as a charity offering. This palm building was only able to hold about six patients.
A stone building replaced the original palm structure in 1519. Construction of this state of the art hospital made of stone and brick was complete in 1527. Only a small chapel remains of the second building.
The third hospital was built from 1533 to 1556. It was much larger and could hold about fifty patients. This building took a beating from the Pirate Francis Drake in 1586. The profiteer burned and destroyed the medical center and stole its contents including documents and many treasures of the church.
San Nicolás de Bari also served as a military hospital but continued to disintegrate due to hurricanes and earthquakes. Even though the building was in ill repair it continued to be used.
Finally, after the Restoration in 1863, the hospital was abandoned and left to decay. The walls were further destroyed when the chapel, the Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia, adjoining the decaying hospital was rebuilt in the 1930’s. At this time some walls were knocked down because they were in danger of falling.
San Nicolas de Bari Today
Now, when you enter what is left of the walls of the hospital you can still see a cross-shaped outline on the faded blue floor tile. The holes in the interior walls are nesting homes for the local pigeon and parrot population (they get very loud during mating season). On the exterior wall high up is a very large active beehive.
From Calle el Conde turn away from the sea onto Calle Hostos. The Ruins and Iglesia Altagracia are located between Calle Mercedes and Calle Luperón.
Fray Antón de Montesino (1475 – 1540), the Defender of Los Indios.
Fray Antón de Montesino is best known for his historic defense of the Taino Indians and other Indigenous persons of the islands of the Carribean and around the world. He courageously spoke against the abuses done to the native peoples of the island in a famous sermon made in 1511. He was one of the first persons to speak out for defending human rights starting the fight around the world.
(some references say Montecinos and also Antonio Montesino.)
In the years of 1494 and 1495 Cristóbal Columbus carried out military campaigns to force the Taínos (the original native inhabitants of the island) to be put under the rule of the Catholic Kings and to serve the Spaniards. The Taínos caught at this time were forced to work in the gold mines and wherever else their labors were needed. During the time of Columbus they were treated as less than human as if they were property instead of human beings. Even though Corona had declared in 1501 that the Taínos were free and that should not be mistreated, nobody listened or obeyed him. The Indians were considered below animals and without souls.
The Spanish continued to use and abuse the original inhabitants of the island. in 1503 Nicholas de Ovando, the abusive governor of the island, told the queen that if he did not use the Indians to work for them in the mines the island would become depopulated and all the business therein would be lost. Since the Kings were more interested in obtaining gold to fund the expenses in Europe, the abuse of the Indians was made legal by Corona. He continued to permit the Indians to be slaves for the Spaniards and to work the mines and the farms. In turn for this legalization, the Spaniards were ordered to teach the Tainos about the Catholic ways. The permission was given the 20 of December of 1503. Thus began the “Sistema de las Encomiendas en la Española (the system of Economics of Spain). This was the start of the true abuse of the Indians.
The Natives who managed to live after serving as slaves in the mines or fields under forced labor were desperate and lost hope. Many committed mass suicides. Many died from disease and starvation. In 1508 when a census of Indians was taken. It found that there were only 60,000 of the original 400,000 left of the natives that were counted when Columbus came onto the island for the first time only sixteen years before. The loss of the labor force hurt the Spanish and their gold mining. It was decided to bring in the Indians of the Lucayas Islands to restock their supply of laborers. In time, because of the Spaniard’s cruel treatment of the indigenous peoples and King Fernando’s insatiable thirst for gold, these indigenous peoples also died off.
The Friars arrival to the settlement started a change. Montecinos who was ordained in 1509, joined the first group of Dominican missionaries in 1510 who were heading to the “New World”. This was the state Fray Antón de Montesino found upon his and the Dominican order or Friars arrival on the island La Española. The Friars saw first hand the horrific treatment, the life of shortage and the forced labor of the Indians. Immediately the friars started to fight in favor of these victims to give the indigenous people rights equal to those of the Spaniards.
“I am the voice of Christ who cries out in the desert of this island. This voice says all are in mortal sin and live and die in it, for the cruelty and tyranny you use on these innocent people. Say what right and justice do you keep in such cruel and horrible servitude these Indians?”
These words were part of the sermon given by Fray Antón de Montesinos on the first Sunday of Advent, the 30 of November of 1511, in the presence of Sir Diego Columbus in the Iglesia de los Padres Dominicos. The sermon was based on the Gospel of Saint Matthew 3:3. All the top officials and authority figures were present. In a full speech of admonition with all sins described in detail, the titled sermon “Ego Vox Clamantis in deserto”, was signed by all the friars of the order. They demanded of the Spaniards to give rights and justice to the Taínos, condemning the oppression against them. The scandal was enormous. All were astonished by the boldness of Fray Antón de Montesinos. (The Sermón de Antonio de Montesinos.)
Fray Pedro de Córdoba, head of the order, promised that Montesinos would make a full retraction in his next sermon. Of course, that did not happen. On the second Sunday from Advent, the 7th of December, Montesinos continued his attack on these atrocities in even harsher words.
Return To Spain
In 1512 Montecino returned to Spain and was sent to court. After great difficulties, Montesinos managed to see the King and was able to explain the terrible situation. The King held a town meeting, composed by theologians and jurists, to discuss and make a judgment on the case.
Montesinos fought and won.
The Government dictated the results in the Laws of Towns, regulating the work of the Indians yet still forcing them to work as before. The Spaniards and Montesinos continued to fight because these laws did nothing to resolve the situation. Finally, the Government of Cisneros Cardinal created “El Gobierno de los Gerónimos” to mediate between both parties and to create laws in favor of the natives. The laws were created but never applied. The plans of el Gobierno de los Gerónimos / Government of the Jerónimos failed.
Montesino died in Venezuela on June 27, 1540. He never saw his dream of equality come to pass. He became the author of the first official reclamation of freedom and equality of the people of America. The exact circumstances of the death of Fray Antón Montesino, the Defender of Los Indios, is unknown.
A Reenactment video of the Sermón de Montesinos en La Española video.
*The speech of Montecino influenced Bartolomé de Las Casas to get rid of his Native slaves and start fighting for their rights.
*There is a Fray Antón de Montecinos Award from the Alumni Association of the University of Santo Domingo in New York City. This award is given annually to a Dominican professional who lives in the United States. This person must substantially enhance the reputation of the Dominican Republic through their work. The award includes a $5,000 cash prize and a replica of a statue of Montesinos.
*The Friar and martyr returned to Hispaniola and continued to work there and in Puerto Rico. In 1521 he founded, along with other Dominicans, a convent in the town of San Juan Bautista de la Isleta, the basis of the first university in Puerto Rico founded in 1532.
*In 1528, Montesinos went to Venezuela with a mission along with other Dominicans
The Monument Frey Antón de Montecinos
The stone and bronze statue found on the Malecon of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The monument is near the harbor on the far end of the Colonial Zone. It can be seen looming in the horizon at the entrance to the Ozama River. The statue was designed by Mexican sculptor Antonio Castellanos. It is almost 15 feet (4.57 meters) tall. The statue was gifted to the Dominican people by the Mexican government when Lopez Portillo was president of Mexico. The monument to Frey Antón de Montecinos was inaugurated in 1982.
The sculpture of Montecinos rests on the upper deck of the building built of limestone and concrete. It was designed by architect Pedro Ramírez Vásquez. The monument, including the height or the statue, measures 30 meters or almost 100 feet tall. The original plan was for the structure to house a cultural center. That plan is finally being worked on and is being constructed now. The Marines guard the monument. The view from the top of the structure shows the entrance to Rio Ozama and the Caribbean Sea. You can also see much of the Colonial City.
Playa Placer de los Estudios
There is a small beach beside the monument of Montecinos. The original name of this beach is Playa Placer de los Estudios. The locals call it Playa Placer or Playita Montecinos.
Part of Playa Placer is very shaded with large palms and there are also many noni trees. You can usually see baseball players practicing their running in the sand or people exercising or walking their dogs.
The beach area runs from the port of Santo Domingo to the coral cliffs that line the Malecon. There is a lot of runoff from the city of garbage and sewage. When there is any storm or hard rain it washes the trash down from the Rio Ozama and it accumulates here. It is so sad to see. It is not advisable to swim on this beach.
The monument honoring Montecino is located on Paseo President Billini where it changes to Avenida George Washington, better known as The Malecon, next to the Port of Santo Domingo on the Caribbean Sea at the mouth of Rio Ozama. Sometimes crossing the Malecon can be dangerous. Facing Montecion walk left along the Malecon and there is a pedestrian bridge at the port that crosses this busy road.
All You Want To Know About The Oldest City In The Americas
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