La Capilla del Nuestra Señora del Rosario / The Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary
Located on a cliff on the Eastern bank of the Ozama river in Villa Duarte, easily seen from the Plaza de España, the Capilla del Rosario is one of the first chapels of the New World.
Original Settlement of Santo Domingo
This small chapel was constructed on the original land where Bartholomew Columbus founded the Villa of Santo Domingo in 1498. This location was where the first colony was established. The chapel, built in 1544, was constructed of wood and beams gathered from the ships and straw. It was dedicated to La Virgen de la Gente de Mar / The Virgin of Seafarers (Sailors). In 1544 Father Fray Bartolome de Las Casas heard Mass here when he visited Santo Domingo, during his trip to Chiapas, where he had been appointed bishop.
The original settlement on this side of the river was abandoned when the water quality was found to be better on the other side of the Rio Ozama. The settlement was moved across the river to the city that is now Santo Domingo founded by Governor Frey Nicolas de Ovando.
This building was used as a military compound during the Haitian occupation. It was also used for smuggling during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Some of the original Taino Indians that adapted to the Spanish way of life lived in this area.
Much research and Archaeological studies have been done at this location. It was found that the limestone floors of the chapel are dated from the 15th century. Many Spanish potteries and a container for holy oils were also discovered at the site. Also, many skeletons were unearthed that were dated from many different eras.
To visit this historical Chapel you must have written permission from the Tourism Department. The access road is the property of Los Molinos and they will not permit visitors without written permission.
Convento y Iglesia de Santa Clara/ Convent and Church of Santa Clara
The nuns of Santa Clara arrived in the colony in 1552. The land where the Church and convent are built was donated by Alvaro de Castro, the public prosecutor of the Inquisition. Don Rodrigo Pimentel ordered that the convent was to be built in the 16th century, 1550 to 1559. Rodrigo de Bastidas, Diego Colón, Rodrigo de Pimentel y el Arzobispo Alonso de Fuenmayor all put in their ideas for the design.
The first convent of the new world
, was occupied in 1590. When the French occupied the city in 1796 the nuns left for Cuba and returned in 1820. The church, convent and mausoleum of Christopher Columbus/ Cristóbal Colon and his decedents were originally dedicated to Santa Ana. Later it was changed and named after Santa Clara and the nuns/ monjas Clarisas. In 1873, the monastery in ruins, was given to the Sisters of Charity of Cardinal Sancha/ las hermanas de la Caridad del Cardenal Sancha, who restored it and now occupy a college where they operate.
The monastery was created for girls in the city Ozama (Urbe del Ozama) to study and be educated. The founders were Franciscan who wore the brown sackcloth robe tied with a cord and a brown cape. These Franciscan monks are still seen walking through the Colonial city. The sisters now live behind the church on Calle las Damas. The iglesia houses a school where some days you can hear the children gathering in the church singing hymns with the sound coming out into the street like a soft wave.
The building is very plain consisting of a smooth, non-descript outer wall and a very simple entryway. The interior is decorated in Gothic style.
From east Calle el Conde turn south (towards the sea) on Isabel la Católica. Go about 2 blocks to Padre Billini and it is on that corner to Calle las Damas, Zona Colonial.
Ruinas del Monasterio de San Francisco / Ruins of the San Francisco Monastery and the Capilla de la Tercera Orden Franciscana / Chapel of the Franciscan Third Order
Sitting atop a hill, looming, surrounded by an iron fence sits almost 2 blocks of buildings in ruins and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Ruinas del Monasterio de San Francisco / Ruins of the San Francisco Monastery are a very humbling sight to behold. Looking both majestic and eerie. It’s menacing, eerie feeling is multiplied when you walk close and see the holes in the land surrounding the building. Some say that these were to hold prisoners. While others say they are places where excavations were done.
There is also a deep well on site covered by a grate.
In the past the inhabitants were lunatics and friars, now the sole inhabitants of the building are the pigeons and ghosts. The cooing of the birds, or maybe it be the moaning from the people of the past, add to the eerie feel of the place.
In the evening the ruins seem to heighten in magnitude and mysteriousness. The lights shining on these abandoned and falling stone walls give it an immense forlorn and desolate feeling. Make sure when you visit you sit on the steps and take in the feeling of the place. If only these lonely bricks could tell their story.
The First Monastery
The most important ruins of the Americas held the first monastery in the Americas. The building was started by Nicolás de Ovando in 1509 and was completed in 1560. Built on a hill overlooking the city it was, and is, a true marvel. It was divided into three parts, the Convento/ Convent, the Chapel (Capilla de la Tercera Orden de los Franciscano, the Capilla de Garay also known as the Chapel of Maria de Toledo, Diego Colons’ wife), and San Francisco el Viejo.
Over the largest part of the doorway of the monastery is the Cordón de la Orden Franciscana, the coat of arms of the order, carved into the stone surrounding the arched doorway. There is a cross and a bust of Padre Billini. It was built on the outside in Renaissance style and the inside in Gothic.
La Casa del Diablo
At one time this place was used as a military fort and named La Casa del Diablo/ The house of the Devil It has also been called El basurero del Monasterio/ The Garbage Can of the Monastery. In 1881, Francisco Billini changed the building into a lunatic asylum. If you look on the inside there are still remnants of chains bolted to the walls where they tied the crazies.
It was taken by the Pirate Francis Drake (for more information on Drake) during his very destructive raids on the city in 1586. Nature also attacked the monastery with two devastating earthquakes in 1673 and 1751.
It is also said to be where Bartholomew Columbus is buried, but this is not certain.
At times there are special events held here. There may be a concert or school group doing something. It is a favorite spot for taking wedding pictures. On Sundays the area is packed full of people all gathering with friends and family to see a free concert and do some dancing.
Capilla de la Tercera Orden Franciscana / Chapel of the Franciscan Third Order
The beautiful facade of this chapel is located in the Ruins of the Monasterio de San Francisco. It was part of the many phases of building within the walls of the monastery. It was built to join with the Capilla de Garay and the Capilla María de Toledo. All that remains today is the front of the chapel and the interior arches with a small remnant of the beautiful vaulted roof that was destroyed in a hurricane is 1930.
From Calle el Conde turn north on Calle Hostos. Go up the hill about 5 blocks. You can also go on Calle Restauracion, Duarte and Juan Isidro Perez (it takes up almost 2 city blocks)
All You Want To Know About The Oldest City In The Americas