Category Archives: Forts and Fortalezas

Iglesia – Fuerte Santa Barbara

Iglesia y El Fuerte de Santa Bárbara / Church and Fort of Santa Barbara

Iglesia de Santa Bárbara / Church of Santa Barbara

Iglesia y Fuerte de Santa Bárbara

This is one of the oldest churches with a fort built in the colonial period and is a UNESCO World Historical Site. The church and fort were built separately. The church was constructed in 1537 and the fort came later.

The church is a single long building with five distinct sections, as can be seen from the outside of the building. The original church building was made of royal palm. Later, in 1537, it was rebuilt in stone. The blocks were quarried from this very site as were the stone blocks for many monuments and buildings of the era.

Church and Fort Santa Bárbara

The building has been damaged many times throughout its history. Both the Fuerte and Iglesia were heavily damaged by a hurricane in 1591. Then earthquakes in 1673 and 1684 did extensive damage to the Iglesia. The Pirate Francis Drake did severe damage to the church when he invaded the island in 1586. Each time the church was repaired something new was added to the structure. It is interesting to note that the ceiling of this historical monument is still covered with the original bricks.

Juan Pablo Duarte was baptised in the Iglesia Santa Bárbara

The Iglesia Santa Barbara boasts to be the place where Juan Pablo Duarte, The Father of the Nation, was baptized on February 14, 1813.

El Fuerte de Santa Bárbara / Fort of Santa Barbara

Fuerte de Santa Bárbara shooting platform

The Fort of Santa Barbara is the only fort with a church inside. The church was built first and later when the fort was built both structures were incorporated together. This is a very unique thing to have a fort and church entwined. The bunker for the fort is attached to the church.

The city of Santo Domingo was a walled city but the north section of the city did not have walls built until 1686. Building the fort in this furthest section of the city was an important step in the fortification of the city.

Fuerte de Santa Bárbara shooting platform cannons

This fort was part of the third stage of protection for the city. Construction began in the early 1540’s and the final phase was completed in the early 1700’s. It was designed by an Italian builder and a Spanish stone cutter. The fort and church, as with most of the Spanish settlement, was build by slave labor by African and the Indigenous island dwellers.

The end of the 17th century brought constant attacks to the all the Antilles Islands. This fort was a bunker facing the mouth of the river Ozama thus giving it an excellent view of the entry port. It was a very strategic location for the strength of the city of Santo Domingo.

Santa Barbara Today

Santa Barbara street art

The barrio of Santa Barbara where the fort and church are located is a good place to visit. It is a typical barrio has a very typical small town feel. There is some great art work and graffiti covering the walls of many of the buildings. Many of these buildings are in need of repair and are abandoned but the art work on many of these buildings in incredible.

Iglesia y Fuerte de Santa Bárbara side wall held up with bars

The church is in disrepair. There are metal bars holding up the outside wall. It has been under renovation for many years and still the work is not completed.

The view from high atop Fuerte de Santa Bárbara shooting platform

If you visit Santa Barbara make sure to climb up the ramp to the top of the shooting wall of the Fuerte Santa Barbara. The wall is lined with cannons. The catwalk along the wall is usually grown up with weeds and the side towards the river is blocked off. There is a very nice view of the and the Rio Ozama from the top of the fort wall.

Location

: From Calle el Conde go south up Calle Isabel la Católica or Calle Arzobispo Meriño (both of these streets lead to this monument). Walk about 6 blocks almost to Av. Mella at the far end of the walled city, Colonial Zone.

Contact -809-682-3307

Fuerte San Gil

Fuerte de San Gil/ Fort of San Gil

The Fuerte San Gil, one time names Fuerte del Matadero / Slaughterhouse Fort, is a 3-sided polygon fort. It was built between 1503 and 1510. This important fort was the first part of the defense of the walled city of Santo Domingo now called Zona Colonial or Ciudad Colonial.

Fort San Gil as the sun rises.

This fortification was a very important bastion to protect the city from Pirate and marauder attack. The watchtower was located on the far corner of the fort. It gave a perfect view of any ship coming from the Caribbean Sea trying to enter the ports of the city. The tower also gave a great view of the sand patch below. This beach is riddled with caves that are excellent places for hiding.

Fuerte San Gil and the beach and caves below

In 1887 the original fort collapsed

due to rough seas. The fort was recently renovated. The renovation closely replicates the original. The area has been cleaned up and again is a nice place to visit.

The circular inner wall of Fuerte San Gil

The fort was ignored for many years and was in disrepair. The beach below was piled high with garbage and was home to stray dogs and homeless people who made the coral caves below their home.

Fuerte San Gil the wall that faces the sea.

There is a grassy area beside the Fort San Gil. It is a nice place to sit and watch the sea.

There used to be a restaurant located inside the fort. The barbecue pit can still be seen in the center of the old fort.

Fort San Gil in front of the Malecon

Location:

The Southwest most part of Zona Colonial where the Zone meats up with Ciudad Nueva. The fort is on the Malecón (Avenida George Washington) at the intersection of Palo Hincado. The bright white Obelisco Hembra is in the front of the fort. Be careful when crossing the Malecon. Pedestrians DO NOT have the right or way.