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Plazoleta Padre Billini

Plazoleta Padre Billini

Beautiful and intimate Plazoleta / Small Plaza Padre Billini, named after and dedicated to Padre Billini who contributed many important things to the Dominican Republic. Here his statue, made by French sculptor Ernest Gilbert, stands proudly.

The statue of Padre Francisco Xavier Billini stands in the center of the plaza named after him, Plazoleta Padre Billini
The statue of Padre Francisco Xavier Billini stands in the center of the plaza named after him, Plazoleta Padre Billini

Padre Francisco Xavier Billini (December 1, 1837 – March 9, 1896), known as the protector of the poor man. He was also a great Philanthropist. Billini founded the National Lottery in 1882 to help pay for the poorest patients of the Hospital de la Beneficencia. This was the first charity hospital in the Dominican Republic, later known as Hospital San Andrés. We now know the hospital as Hospital Docente Padre Billini located on Calle Santomé in the Colonial Zone.

The statue of Padre Billini, The protector of the people, stands in the center of the Plaza
The statue of Padre Billini, The protector of the people, stands in the center of the Plaza

The Legend of La Casa de Garay

Where this Plazoleta Padre Billini is now, there once was a large beautiful house, The Casa de Garay. This private home was built around 1520. It was torn down because of a disagreement between neighbors.

Located on Calle Arzobispo Meriño on the left is La Bricola Restaurant and the Plaza Padre Billini is where the beautiful Casa de Garay once stood
Located on Calle Arzobispo Meriño on the left is La Bricola Restaurant and the Plaza Padre Billini is where the beautiful Casa de Garay once stood

A widow, who lived in her home where La Bricola Restaurant is located (across the street from the Plaza), saw a sight from her window. A slave from the Casa de Garay decided to milk their masters’ cow in the middle of the street. The elderly lady complained. The owners of the House of Garay made a nasty comment about this. The widows’ nephew heard about the comment and came to his elderly aunts’ defense. He wanted to defend the family name of Franco Medina.

The nephew wanted the owner of the slave to apologize. They even offered to purchase the slave so they could punish him and end the dispute. The owner refused. It was against the law to speak badly or defame someone’s character. It was a very serious offense (and still is in the Dominican Republic). A long court battle entailed because they questioned the persons’ honor. The elderly woman won the lawsuit.

In this time in history, many lawsuits were settled by giving the losers home to the winner of a suit. The owner of the lost home said angrily (general translation) “It’s easy for anyone to get rich!” The Franco Medina family, who won the property, announced that the house will not be lived in by me or anyone. They destroyed the home because they did not want the owner to think the Medina family fought and won just to take the home.

The empty lot was turned into a plaza. This plaza has had many different names over time, including Plaza de las Franco, Plaza de las Lebrón and Plaza de las Mañón. Finally, Damián Báez (the son of Presidente Buenaventura Báez), purchased the property to make a plaza dedicated to Padre Billini.

Plaza Padre Billini Now

Plazolita Padre Billini has large shade trees where one can sit and enjoy a rest from the Dominican sun
Plazolita Padre Billini has large shade trees where one can sit and enjoy a rest from the Dominican sun

The small plaza has benches under large shade trees where you can sit and enjoy the breeze. It is now half occupied by some of the restaurants that line the site. These restaurants are nice but expensive places. You can sit outside in the Plaza or inside the enclosed restaurants or private patios to have a meal and a drink.

The Plazoleta Padre Billini is a favorite spot to take wedding pictures.
The Plazoleta Padre Billini is a favorite spot to take wedding pictures.

They hold many special events in the Plaza from meetings with the President to small intimate weddings. It is a great place to take wedding pictures too.

Plazoleta Padre Billini is located on Calle Arzobispo Meriño and Padre Billini where the beautiful Casa de Garay once stood
Plazoleta Padre Billini is located on Calle Arzobispo Meriño and Padre Billini where the beautiful Casa de Garay once stood

Location:

Walking from Calle el Conde turn on Arzobispo Meriño south toward the sea. Walk about a block and a half and small plaza, Plazoleta Padre Billini, is on the left side before you get to Calle Padre Billini.

Iglesia Regina Angelorum

Iglesia y Convento Regina Angelorum / Church and Convent of Regina Angelorum

Iglesia y Convento Regina Angelorum is the first building made exclusively for the Dominican nuns (monjas dominicanas). When six nuns arrived in 1560 the Convent of Santa Clara was the only convent in the city that belonged to the Franciscan sisters. They needed another convent in which to live. They had this convent built.

Front of the Church and Convent Regina Angelorum

The original convent and place of worship for these six Dominican nuns was nothing more than a plain room. By 1567 they had begun construction on a more appropriate temple on land donated by Maria de Arana.

Side door of the Church Regina Angelorum

The nuns of Regina Angelrum had to emigrate to Havana, Cuba, because of the Treaty of Basel in December 1795. In 1820 the surviving nuns returned to Hispaniola. Then, in 1866, President Cabral turned the building over to Father Billini (his remains are located in the church).

Iglesia Regina Angelorum

Padre Billini started the School San Luis de Gonzaga in this location. Later, the convent was reconstructed and turned into an institute for the ladies of Salomé Ureña. The first female poets in the New World, Leonor de Ovando and Elvira de Mendoza, once lived here. Since 1916 the Mercedarias nuns have occupied the building.

Iglesia Regina Angelorum interior

Recent History

The original structure was replaced with the building that is there now. This newer temple had its foundation laid in 1714. It was completed in 1722.

Interior domed ceiling of the Iglesia y Convento Regina Angelorum

The Iglesia and Convento Regina Angelorum is one of the best preserved churches in the city. It is also one of the most beautiful with its 17th century Gothic style vaults and ornamentation. Inside this beautiful church near one of its alters is a wall of silver.

Silver wall of the Iglesia Regina Angelorum

Hours:

Monday thru Saturday 9AM to 6PM. To enter you must have permission from the nuns that reside within.

Church Regina Angelorum on Calle Padre Billini

Location:

From Calle el Conde turn south onto Calle José Reyes. Walk 2 blocks to Calle Padre Billini.