This building, sitting in the Plaza San Antón, was one of the originals built by order of Nicolas Ovando in 1502 with its original name being San Antonio Abad. The building was set afire by Sir Francis Drake and then almost completely destroyed by the hurricane San Zenón in 1930.
The small chapel has been rebuilt totally and painstakingly after many years of abuse and thievery. Thanks to old pictures they were able to make this the new version as close to the old as possible. The chapel now has no objects of religious significance inside. As of this writing (2012) it has not been kept up well.
Plaza San Antón
There is a small plaza, Plaza San Antón, that is near this chapel and many homes are built around and through where the old walls stood. It sits along the far northern walls of the Fort San Francisco which connected the Monastery and the fort of the same name.
From Calle el Conde go north, up the hill, on Arz. Meriño about 4 long blocks. Pass the Ruins of the Monastery San Francisco to Calle Restauracion and make a left (south) There is a plaza with many stairs. The little chapel is at the top of these stairs at Plaza de San Antón. Below Calle Vicente Celestino Duarte.
Also known as – Convento e Iglesia de los Padres Dominicos/ Monastery (Convent) and Church of the Dominican Fathers (Order), Imperial Convento de Santo Domingo and Convento de la Orden de los Predicadores o frailes Dominicos/ Convent of the Order of Preachers or Dominicos Friars.
The history of one of the original convents and churches of the Colonial Era.
The church is part of The United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) and what makes the Colonial Zone such a special place.
With the arrival of Columbus to the island of Hispaniola in 1492 the process of colonization started. In Autumn 1508 the abbot general of the Order of the Dominicos sent word to the King of Spain that they needed to send representatives to Hispaniola. Finally, in 1510 it was agreed to send fifteen friars to Santo Domingo.
When the delegated representatives started arriving they stayed in a meager wooden home. The person living there got booted so the friars had a place to stay. The building of the chapel progressed very slowly as there was no cash allotted or sent for its construction.
In the mean time, the friars held meetings and gave their sermons in different parts of the city while waiting for the construction to be completed.
It took a long time to get the chapel built because Spain really did not care to send money for the construction work. Frey Bartolomé de Las Casas, who was in charge of the church in the mid 1500’s, eventually sent fray Antonio de Montesino to petition the King for some aide. Finally in 1522, nine years later, Spain came up with the cash and Montecinos hired a builder. There is no real information if this builder ever came to the island or not. Also, there is not much on record of the construction of the building.
In 1531-1532 they had the official inauguration of the chapel. Some of the important persons in attendance were Pedro de Córdoba, Reginaldo de Montesinos, Bartolomé de las Casas y Antonio de Montesinos.
The first university in America
In 1534 the convent began holding classes, and in 1538 became the first university in America by the order of Bula In Apostolatus Culmine, with the blessings of Papa Paulo III / Pope Paul the Third. The original name was Universidad de Santo Tomás de Aquino and later it was changed to the Universidad Primada de América / First University of America.
The building was constructed with a mix of architectural styles including Elizabethan Gothic, Baroque and Gothic. The exterior has many different statues and images that are the works of brothers Jorge y Ajejo Fernández from Seville. In the Sixteenth century (Siglo XVI) the entrance to the building boasts five altarpieces; one is painted by Juan Martínez Montañés, a very famous painter of the colonial era.
In 1588 the building was in bad repair. It was too small for all who lived within its walls. Finally, they got money to repair and rebuild. The reconstruction left a few of the original walls incorporated into the building.
The building has been destroyed many times throughout the years but has always been rebuilt.
1545 – A windstorm knocked down the belfry.
1586 – Sir Francis Drake severely damaged the building when he invaded Hispaniola.
1673 – This huge earthquake destroyed parts of the building
1684 – Later another earthquake collapsed the roof of the building
In 1681 the building was said to be in very bad shape. The wooden roof needed to be replaced and the entire structure had to be re-worked. Finally, in 1746 the roof was reconstructed to be a barrel vault type roof.
There are 5 small chapels inside the church
Capilla del Sagrado, Capilla del Rosario, Capilla de Solano, Capilla de la Altagracia and Capilla del Pilar.
Capilla Nuestra Señora del Rosario/ Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary
The Fiesta del Rosario is a very solemn event held in the city. This chapel is part of the Church of the Dominican Order. The interior has almost a sun looking vaulted roof above the altar. The way the high windows let in the light adds to the look. As in the XVII Century style, the art above the dome shows God-like bearded men amidst planets and clouds.
The entrance has Gothic Baroque styles and shows chaos. There are statues of Saint Peter and Paul, busts of Saint Thomas and Peter the Martyr. There are representations of other saints as well as signs representing faith and hope.
The top has a representation of the Virgin handing Santo Domingo the rosary. At the bottom of this archway are monsters representing the chaotic forces of the world.
When the building was restored in 1746 and the vaulted ceiling was added many there were many other additions as well. A sun was added in the center supported at 4 points, the cardinal points of the universe. These 4 points are masculine representations of the planets (Jupiter, Mars, Saturn and Mercury the feminine planets, Venus and Luna, are excluded and not represented), 4 temptations and the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse.
– Monday – Saturday 7AM for morning prayers. Sundays 8AM, 11AM and 7PM
Open for visitors: 8:30AM to 12:30PM and 3PM to 6PM. There is a small entrance fee. Please do not enter or take pictures when there is a service or event.
The sculpture “Homeless Jesus” / La escultura “Jesús Desamparado” by Canadian artist Timothy P. Schmalz is located in the Plaza in front of the church.
Walking on Calle el Conde turn south on Calles Hostos or Duarte. Go 2 blocks. The burnt orange colored building is across from Parque Duarte on Calle Padre Billini. The front of the church faces a plaza and the small street Calle Macoris, Ciudad Colonial.
Basilica Catedral de Santa María la Menor / The Cathedral of Santa Maria the Lesser also known as the Cathedral of Santo Domingo, The First in America / Catedral de Santo Domingo, La Primera en América
The First Church / Cathedral in the Americas.
The full name of this marvelous cathedral is the Basilica Catedral Metropolitana Santa María de la Encarnación. Originally when this church was built in 1514 it was a hut made of royal palms. It now takes up an entire block and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Diego Columbus (a little history of Don Diego Colón) set the first stone of the cathedral in the Plaza Mayor (now known as Parque Colón). Since then many additions and changes have been made to the original structure.
Spanish workmen began building the Cathedral in 1521 under the watchful eye of Bishop Alejandro Geraldini. Construction was halted when the workers left to search for gold in Mexico. The first Cathedral was completed in 1523 when the name of the park in faced was changed to Plaza de la Catedral, now called Parque Colón.
The second church building was much better, it was made of wood and the roof was palm branches. If there was rain there was no service. At the end of 1537 the roof was rebuilt the way we see it today.
The front of the Catedral of Santa María is dated 1540 and was completed in 1544.
When you enter the cathedral you will feel a calmness come over you. Seeing the interior for the first time is a real experience. It is so quiet, relaxing, and overpowering and yet it has such a reverent feeling. Make sure to look up toward the heavens and notice the vaulted ceiling made to look like palm branches representing the original roof of the first church.
The stained glass throughout the church is magnificent. The mahogany alter, the carved animals, the statues, the high hammered silver alter, it is all so beautiful.
The church was worked on and designed by so many different people. This is why so many architectural styles can be seen in one building. There are Roman style arches and Gothic style vaults with some Baroque ornaments thrown in for good measure. All this only adds to the buildings originality and powerful dominating look. Built with coralline blocks, as with many of the Colonial era structures, this building has been able to withstand the ravishings of time and humans both.
It is interesting to note that the bell tower is very small for the importance of this church. The construction of the campanario was abruptly stopped in 1547. They were concerned that a tall tower would bring attention to the Fortress from marauders and people wanting to attack Santo Domingo. The base of the tower has stairs for the bell ringers to access the top. Recently the bell ringers lost their jobs when electronic bells were put in place.
There are 14 different chapels inside the large structure. Inside some of these chapels are the mausoleums of some archbishops including Geraldini Bastidas and the tomb of Simón Bolívar.
*Capilla de Santa Ana o del Obispo Rodrigo de Bastidas
*Capilla del Bautismo o de San Juan Bautista
*Capilla de San Cosme y San Damián
*Capilla del Cristo de la Agonía
*Capilla de la Virgen de los Dolores y San Miguel
*Capilla de las Animas o de Zuazo o de Fuenmayor
*Capilla del Santísimo Sacramento
*Capilla de San Pedro
*Capilla de San Francisco de Paula, o de la Magdalena o de San José
*Capilla del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús
*Capilla de Jesús en la Columna
*Capilla de Nuestra Señora de la Antigua o de Jesús Predicador
*Capilla de Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia o de los Inmortales
*Capilla de Nuestra Señora de la Luz, de los Dolores o de la Santísima Trinidad
*There is a cannon ball lodged in the roof of the Cathedral. It can be seen from Parque Colón. Some say it is from the Guerra de la Reconquista, the war for Spanish reestablishment in Santo Domingo that was fought between November 7, 1808 and July 9, 1809. Others say it is a cannonball fired from the boats of Sir Frances Drake in 1586 when he took over Santo Domingo. Noone knows for sure exactly where it came from.
*The building historically has been used as a slaughterhouse and a prison. It was a wine and provision storage facility used by the pirates when it was ransacked in 1586 by Sir Francis Drake.
*The stained glass window above the alter is shaped like a key reminiscent of the key window in St. Peter’s Square in Rome that represents the transmission of spiritual power from Christ to Saint Peter.
*Researchers have confirmed the authenticity of the Santo Domingo Cathedral mahogany cross. The carbon dating determined that the wooden cross dates back to 1498 and 1528.
*History states that the remains of Cristopher Columbus were kept there. There was a monument build inside the Cathedral over his remains that were buried under the floor. The monument and Columbus remains were moved to the Faro a Colón where they can be found today.
*You might notice a worn touchstone on the corner of the wall near the side entrance. When the people of the Colonial City would come to the cathedral for refuge, they would touch the stone when entering and be safe from attackers.
*The painting of La Virgen de la Altagracia dates from 1523.
Cost: There is a small entrance fee. If you do want a taped tour there is an additional fee. Mon.-Sat. 9-4; Sun. Masses begin at 6 AM Proper dress required.
The east end of Calle el Conde between Arzobispo Meriño and Isabel la Católica, Colonial Zone at Parque Colon.
Check out this Panoramic picture of the Catedral de Santo Domingo and Parque Colón. Click on the image to see it in full size.
All You Want To Know About The Oldest City In The Americas