The Faro a Colón/ Columbus Lighthouse is a massive building shaped like a cross located in Eastern Santo Domingo. It is both a Museum and Mausoleum, it is said to house the remains of Christopher Columbus.
The Faro or Lighthouse was built to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Admiral Cristobal Colón / Christopher Columbus to Santo Domingo in Las Americas in 1492. It sits on a large lot of land with reflecting pools on either side of the entrance (the only time there is water in the pools now is if it rains). There is a sidewalk where you can walk completely around the monstrous building and take in the views of the Caribbean Sea and the city of Santo Domingo in the distance. There are also pathways on the property where you can meander about.
This monuments design was chosen out of many applicants from the world over. The jury chose the design of Joseph Lea Gleave from England. His design was described as “an enormous cross-shaped structure designed to last for all times”. The jury described his design in this way, “THE DESIGN, MAKING WONDERFUL USE OF LIGHT, TAKES REFUGE IN A DIRECTNESS, SIMPLICITY AND FORCE WORTHY OF THE MONUMENTS OF THE AGES. THE DESIGN IS SYMBOLIC, BUT NOT TO THE EXTENT WHERE SYMBOLISM INTERFERES WITH THE SIMPLE BEAUTY OF THE WORK AS ARCHITECTURE. SEEN FROM THE AIR, OR FROM ITS SURROUNDINGS, THE SIMPLE MASS BECOMES A NOBLE ELEMENTAL FEATURE OF THE GROUND AND OF A CHARACTER WORTHY OF THE STEADFAST COURAGE AND FAITH OF THE GREAT DISCOVERER IT COMMEMORATES”.
The Columbus Lighthouse was inaugurated October 6, 1992 by President Joaquin Balaguer Ricardo. At the commemoration ceremony, the remains of Columbus were carried from the First Cathedral of the Americas through the streets, across the river and to their new resting place inside this enormous monument.
The ceremony was even attended by Pope John Paul II. The Popes Pope-Mobile can be seen parked outside of the entrance to the Faro.
A statue of Queen Isabel la Católica marks the entrance to the Faro as you approach on Ave. Mirador del Este. Queen Isabel la Católica, Queen of Castile, commissioned Cristobal Colón voyage to the New World.
There is a large paved walk and grand stairs that lead up to the entrance of the Faro. The walkway is lined by many different countries flags waving in the breeze.
Escudo de Armas
On the entrance walkway you will notice the Christopher Columbus, Coat of Arms / Cristóbal Colón, Escudo de Armas. It is divided into 4 sections.
1) A castle of gold / Un castillo de oro
2) Lion crowned in gold with silver background / En campo de plata un leon rampante de gules coronado de oro
3) Islands of gold in a blue background / En campo de azur unas islas de oro
4) Five gold ancors in a blue background / En campo de azur cinco ancoras de oro, puestas en aspa.
Entado en punta de oro con una banda de azur y el jefe de
Climbing the stairs to the front gate there is a bust of President Joaquin Balaguer watching over all who enter.
The museum and chapel inside and it also is a repository for numerous documents and artifacts associated with the early Spanish Colonial times. There are rooms dedicated to the Latin America Countries displaying many different artifacts and items of interest from the represented country.
The Building and Light
The Faro a Colón is 693ft (211m) long East to West and 195 long feet North to South. This massive monument is 45 feet high. It was built in the shape of a cross at a 45-degree angle. It has 4 bronze lions and the feminine figurine that represents the Dominican Republic.
The building, in my opinion, is quite ugly from the outside. Its huge grey shape can be seen from a great distance even high in the air. The most impressive part of the structure is when they turn on the 157 beams of light illuminating the night sky with its brilliant cross. Now, the light is only turned on for special occasions because of the cost and problems with the electricity in the country. The light, it is said, can be seen in Puerto Rico on a clear night. It is very beautiful and quite impressive to see this cross-shaped beam of light shining in the night sky.
There is still much debate on whether the remains located in the Faro really belong to Christopher Columbus. Spain also claims to have his remains. Neither country wants DNA tests done on the bones in their possession so it will remain a mystery. To read more on this Faro a Colon – Indiana.edu
and Columbus Remains Found In Spain – CBSNews
The lighthouse was remodeled in August 2008 and most recently in 2018. The streets have been repaved, the interior has been cleaned and bad floors replaced. New lighting has been installed.
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 9am to 5pm (there is a small admission fee) Phone – 809-591-1492
Directions: Ave. Mirador del Este, Santo Domingo Este. It is about a 30 minute walk from Plaza España in the Colonial Zone.
Before the Europeans arrived on the island of Hispaniola and claimed they were the so-called “discoverers” of the entire island, it was occupied by the Taino Indians.
The Tainos lived on the island they lovingly called Quisqueya. In the Taino language this means “Land for which there is none better”.
The peaceful Tainos (they did war with neighboring tribes such as the bloodthirsty Caribs) almost entire demise coincided with the arrival of the Spaniards and their abuse of these original inhabitants of this small island. These “savages”, as the Europeans thought of them, who had ruled the island, now lost their way of life and eventually most lost their lives because of this invasion of the Whites. The Taino nation was doomed the moment Christopher Columbus invaded their beloved island.
The Arrival of the Foreigners
Christopher Columbus, in Spanish Cristóbal Colón, came to the island on the ship La Santa María. There were two other ships that accompanied him, La Pinta and La Niña. He found the island for the first time on October 12, 1492.
Columbus first landed on one of the islands in the Bahamas. Later that year also found Cuba and an island he called La Isla Espanola (he was on the western side of the island).
When Columbus returned to Spain after visiting Hispanola he left some of his men behind. They were instructed to search for the gold he thought was on the island.
When Columbus made his second voyage, he returned to the island only to find the people he left on Hispaniola had vanished. All were assumed to have died.
The fleet of 17 ships continued traveling along the coast toward the east. Finally, stopping to create a fortified post, Christopher left his brother and some men on the island. They were instructed to search the interior of the island for that coveted and promised gold. Columbus left and continued his quest, searching elsewhere for the gold he promised the Queen.
By the spring of 1494, the island of Hispaniola was colonized. The island Columbus declared to be “The most beautiful island the human eyes have ever seen” is where he wanted his remains entered to rest forever.
The first Europeans settled Hispaniola in 1496.
The brother of Christopher, Bartholomew Columbus founded Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, officially on August 5, 1498. The city, originally named La Isabela, is the oldest European city founded by Europeans in the “New World”. It is the oldest colonial city in all of the Americas.
Santo Domingo was the place of origin for much of the exploration and conquest of the New World throughout its first century of existence. The “discovery” of Puerto Rico led by Ponce de Leon, the conquest of Mexico led by Cortez, and the first sighting of the Pacific Ocean led by Balboa, all started here in Santo Domingo.
The famous pirate Francis Drake invaded the settlement in 1568 and weakened the Spanish domain over Hispaniola. The Spaniards abandoned the city and left it to Drake and the pirates for more than 50 years. It remained this way until the French invaded the west side of the island in 1655. After many treaties and forced annexations the part of the island originally called by Santo Domingo was less than half it’s original size.
Commanded by Toussaint Louverture, the Haitians took over the island in 1822. They ruled the island for 22 years, fighting for their lost independence.
The Spaniards again became independent of Haitian rule on February 27, 1844. Thanks to their leaders Juan Pablo Duarte, Francisco del Rosario Sánchez and Ramón Matías Mella. This was when the Spanish part of the island became known as the Republica Dominicana (Dominican Republic). The Haitian’s were totally defeated in 1861 and sent to their own side of the island. The struggle to keep control of the country was ongoing, even after Spanish independence was gained.
More Recent History
In 1916 The United States of America, wanting to have more power and influence in the Dominican Republic, used World War 1 as an excuse to bring in the Marines. They came to “protect” the country against the “bad” European powers.
The USA changed the infrastructure of the country to best benefit them. The Dominican Republic had its first, somewhat, free elections in 1924 which put Rafael Leonidas Trujillo in power.
The US finally decided to leave the Dominican Republic to take care of itself. Soon after Trujillo was able to gain power. In 1930 he took over completely. The Trujillo dictatorship ended on May 30, 1961 with his execution by ambush. He died one of the richest men in the world.
After this there were many political and economic problems and the country was in turmoil. The US Marines returned in 1965 to occupy the country again. This time because they said the uprising was the fault of the Communists. USA left when Dr. Joaquín Balaguer was elected president for a second time (many say the election was fixed). Through all these political struggles and civil wars the country became independent.
1992 marked the 500th anniversary, El Quinto Centenario, of Christopher Columbus’ opening of Las Americas to the colonization of the Europeans.
The Columbus Lighthouse, Faro a Colón, with an approximate cost of 400 million Dominican pesos, was erected in honor of this occasion. This massive structure is in the shape of a cross. It is claimed that the building houses the remains of Cristobal Colón. The museum also is home to many exhibits and historical items.
Faro a Colón is amazing to see by day as well as the night when it is completely lit up. The spectacular lights on the top of the building form a cross in the heavens at night (the lights are only shown on special occasions because of the electricity problems) that can be seen for long distances.
Colonial Zone, Zona Colonial or Ciudad Colonial is the oldest city in Las Americas on the island of Hispaniola in the country of Dominican Republic. It is a small town located in the capital city Santo Domingo de Guazmán. It is bordered by Río Ozama and the Caribbean Sea. There are many historical sites that were built during the time of exploration, exploitation, and colonization of the “New World.”
Much of the original city can still be seen today. The cathedral, monastery, university and hospital are among many of the “firsts” that happened here. The 16th-century buildings, homes and churches where one can see the old world Spanish architectural styles of the period. Many of these buildings are in excellent condition and are a wonder to behold.
Colonial Zone (and the surrounding sectors including San Miguel, San Lázaro, Santa Barbara, San Anton, San Carlos, Atarazana, and Cuidad Nueva) is a wonderful mix of the past and present. The old and new intertwine to make a unique visitors experience.
Live the history. Walk our streets. Visit our Museums and Historical sights. Dine in our restaurants. Meet our people. Dance to out music. You will make lasting memories. Something you may remember for a lifetime. Here in the land of firsts in “The Americas”
The city of Santo Domingo was the seat of many historic events and many of the monuments that are here are from the first 50 years of the European Conquest of America. This is why we have the title
“The Cradle of America”.
1. First Map: drawing of the northeast coast by Christopher Columbus (1493) (old maps)
2. First European Villa in the Americas: La Isabela (1494)
3. First Religious Order: Friar of San Francisco (1494)
4. First Mass officiated in the Americas: January 6, 1494.
5. First Capital of the Americas: Santo Domingo (1496-98)
6. First Monastery: San Francisco (1502)
7. First Hospital: San Nicolás de Bari (1503)
8. First House of Contracts (1503)
9. First University: Universidad de Santo Domingo (1538)
10. First Cathedral: Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación (1541)
There are many cultural treasures located throughout Dominican Republic. In 2010 there was a vote by the held by the International Bureau of Capitals of Culture. The bureau helps people to notice important cultural locations throughout the world. This year they focused on the Dominican Republic. There were 27 candidates for the treasure, and most were in the Colonial Zone. They received 18,420 votes.
This is a list of the places voted for and the number of votes received. You can find information about these locations in the Colonial Zone Sights section.
1) Alcázar de Colón – 4344 votes
2) Cathedral Santa María de la Encarnación – 2560
3) Fortaleza Ozama – 2369
4) Museo de las Casas Reales – 1275
5) Jardín Botánico – 1117
6) Malecón – 1092
7) Palacio de Bellas Artes – 1024
8) Barrio Chino – 972
9) Calle Las Damas – 485
10) Palacio Nacional – 443
11) Hospital San Nicolás de Bari (ruinas) – 308
12) Panteón Nacional – 284
13) Parque de los Tres Ojos de Auga – 246
14) Altar de la Patria – 238
15) Hostal Nicolás de Ovando – 223
16) Monasterio de San Francisco (ruinas) – 208
17) Faro a Colón – 196
18) Alcantarilla Colonial – 193
19) Iglesia del Convento Dominico – 184
20) Calle El Conde – 181
21) Casa de Juan Pablo Duarte – 125
22) Reales Atarazanas – 116
23) Casa de Tostado – 66
24) Parque de la Independencia – 49
25) Ceiba de Colón – 46
26) Urna original de los restos del almirante Don Cristóbal Colón – 39
27) Palacio Consistorial – 37
Palacio Virreinal Alcázar de Colón / Columbus Royal Palace
The Palacio Virreinal Alcázar de Colón (Colón is the Spanish word for Columbus), the short name is Alcazar de Colon. In English it is known as The Columbus Palace. This beautiful historical monument and UNESCO World Heritage site is a 22 room stone home built by Christopher Columbus son, Don Diego Colón and his wife María de Toledo.
Diego and Maria Toledo resided in this 50 room Viceregal palace, during Diego’s term as viceroy. It has beautiful gardens, large balconies and amazing courtyards. This fortress was built during the early 1500s to be the seat of the viceroy court.
Diego and his wife, Maria de Toledo, lived here until 1523 when he was recalled to Spain. Other relatives lived here for decades afterward.
This building was abandoned in 1770 and turned into a garbage dump. Cave-ins in 1809 and 1835 left the building in ruins.
The building was restored by highly skilled stone cutters under the orders of President Trujillo. There were some added refinements made during several later restorations. The size is much smaller than the original building. All rebuilding was done to remain as faithful as possible to the original construction and decor. Not one single nail was used in its construction. It opened to the public on Columbus Day in 1957.
The palace sits in a large open square, Plaza de Armas or Plaza de España. There are always some interesting activities happening in this beautiful plaza and if there are no activities it is still a nice place to sit on one of the benches located around the edge of the plaza.
The Alcazar looks beautiful at night with the lights shining on the stone-coral building. The Palacio Virreinal is a must-see for those who want to learn about Santo Domingo’s historical beginnings.
Museum of the Royal Houses / Museo Alcazar de Colón
Located inside the Alcazar is a museum that is home to an extensive collection of furniture and household items from the colonial period all arranged to look as if it is being lived into this day.
On display in the mansion is furniture, many clothing items and home utensils from the era, all supplied by the Spanish government. The furnishings are not the original household furnishings. Since the building was in ruins for many centuries it was ransacked and all the furnishings were taken or destroyed.
The museum is open to the public Tuesday to Saturday 9AM – 5PM and Sundays from 9AM to 4PM
General admission is RD$50 (6/2012)
Maria de Toledo Statue
*Note- Mid-2017 the statue was moved to the Plaza Maria de Toledo between Isabel la Católica and Calle las Damas.
In the side yard is a statue of Maria de Toledo, the niece of the King of Spain and wife of Diego Colón, the son of Christopher Colón.
Maria was the first person of noble lineage to come to the Spanish island in 1509. She was the great-niece of the Catholic Monarchs and granddaughter of the Duke of Alba).
María de Toledo was a gracious host and loved having parties and visitors to her home. The statue of her seems to be inviting guests to her home.
Calle Las Damas at Plaza España. Walking west on Calle el Conde go almost to the end at Calle Las Damas. Turn left and continue walking about 1 1/2 blocks straight ahead. The street will turn into a pedestrian only plaza. Keep walking and you will see the giant palace in the distance. You cannot miss it.
All You Want To Know About The Oldest City In The Americas