The Ceiba de Colón is a historical tree located near the mouth of the Río Ozama. Legend states that this is where Christopher Columbus moored his ship the Santa María when he first arrived in the Americas.
The trunk of the Ceiba de Colón, mostly covered in cement now, has been protected throughout history. The Dominican people tried to keep the tree upright and alive as long as possible. But, as all trees do, it just got old. The trunk began to split, become hollow and finally, the tree fell. All that remains of that tree is cement and stone that were used to cover the original tree trunk.
Today there is another Ceiba tree growing next to the original cement covered trunk. It is said to be there to protect the original tree. Akin to a daughter, with its arms outstretched, covering and protecting the elderly mother from all the world’s troubles.
About The Ceiba
The Ceiba tree throughout the history of the world has been shrouded in many myths and legends. It is said the roots of this ancient tree can reach to the deepest parts of the underworld and also represents the terrestrial realms. In Mayan mythology, the Ceiba, or tree of life, is said to hold up the sky. It is the national tree of Guatemala. It is a common tree found in warm, tropical regions. The Ceiba can grow to be very tall and its branches form a huge shady canopy.
Near Puerta de las Atarazanas and Avenida del Puerto (Av. Francisco Alberto Caamaño Deño). It is easily spotted when entering the Colonial Zone from the Puente Flotante. Walking, go north from Calle el Conde past Plaza España, down the stairs. Continue walking along the wall of the original city up Calle Atarazanas. Walk to a small Plaza at The Fuerte de la Carena and Fuerte de Angulo, where the road ends. Look over the wall at the cannon and you will see the cement covered stump standing all alone.
Iglesia y El Fuerte de Santa Bárbara / Church and Fort of Santa Barbara
Iglesia de Santa Bárbara / Church of Santa Barbara now known as Catedral Castrense Santa Bárbara de los Hombres de la Mar
The Iglesia and Fuerte of Santa Barbara is one of the oldest churches built within a fort in the colonial period. It is a UNESCO World Historical Site. The church and fort were originally built separately. The church was constructed in 1537 and the fort was built later because the location was very strategic for the protection of the city of Santo Domingo.
On Tuesday February 4, 2020 the newly rescued and restored Iglesia de Santa Barbara became known as Catedral Castrense Santa Bárbara de los Hombres de la Mar, or the Santa Barbara de la Mar Cathedral. The Roman Catholic Church in the Dominican Republic announced that the Church of Santa Bárbara will now officially be the second Cathedral in the Ciudad Colonial. The Santa Barbara Cathedral is now the seat of the newly-named Military Diocese, Diócesis Castrense.
The statues in the front of the newly ordained Cathedral are the martyr Santa Bárbara de Nicomedia Patron Saint of armorers, artillerymen, architects. The second is St. Francis of Assisi the Patron saint of Animals, Merchants & Ecology.
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.
The interior of the church has eight distinct chapels each are from very distinct and are from different eras.
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.
The Iglesia Santa Barbara boasts to be the place where Juan Pablo Duarte, The Father of the Nation, was baptized on February 14, 1813.
Interesting stories surrounding the Iglesia and Fort
There are many crypts under the church that recently have been discovered. There are also bones in the walls and a newly discovered cemetery in the Plaza surrounding the church.
“Las Vírgenes de Galindo” / “The Virgins of Galindo” – Three young sisters and their father were massacred in 1822 by Haitian invading forces. – Cesar Nicolás Penson said in his works “Cosas Añejas”
El Fuerte de Santa Bárbara / Fort of Santa Barbara
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.
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 built by slave labor by African and the Indigenous island dwellers.
The end of the 17th century brought constant attacks to 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
The barrio of Santa Barbara where the fort and church are located is a good place to visit. It is a typical Dominican barrio that has a small town feel. There are some great art works and graffiti covering the walls of many of the buildings. Many of these buildings are in need of repair and are abandoned but the facades on many of these buildings are incredible.
The church, fort and plaza have been completely restored and is open for visiting. The renovation work which has taken many years to complete is beautifully done. The bronze monuments and statues in the Plaza and the Fuerte Santa Barbara are beautiful. The interior of the church, now officially is a Cathedral, is amazing. The stained glass windows, the statues and adornments inside the church and the chapels are a must see. This place is a place that everyone needs to visit when you are in the Colonial Zone.
Here is a picture that was taken February 17, 2019 of the renovation work being done. It is looking great.
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 and in the center is the giant statue of Saint Francis of Assisi. The catwalk along the wall is easy to climb and the side of the walk towards the river is blocked off. There is a very nice view of the Colonial City of Santo Domingo and the Rio Ozama from the top of the fort wall.
: 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.
The panorama view of Ciudad Colonial from atop a six-story building looking down. To the left is Calle Padre Billini and far in the distance is the Caribbean Sea. You can see the distant line of the new city of Santo Domingo with all the tall buildings and Hotels. Toward the center of the picture is a very large brown building. That is Edificio Díez that sits on the Calle el Conde and Hostos. Move further to the right the bright white tower with the clock is the Palacio Consistorial and the large stone building is the Cathedral of Santa Maria, Catedral de Santo Domingo, Primada de América. Then you come to Calle Isabel la Catolíca with the columned porch of the Palacio de Borgellá. In the distance you can see the red domed roof of the Panteón Nacional and the bridge over the Rio Ozama in the background.
Hot Air Balloons – 2012
Hot Air Balloons and a Helicopter over the Colonial Zone. Calle Isabel La Catolíca and the Cathedral on the left and the Casa del Sacramento on the right with the red roof.
Ciudad Colonial looking toward the Caribbean Sea – 2011
This picture is taken in Ciudad Colonial looking toward the Caribbean Sea. You can see the Port San Souci on the left. Moving along it the Faro San Souci at Punta Torrecilla at the mouth of Rio Ozama. Looking down Calle Isabel la Catolíca. The Caribbean Sea is in the distance with the state of Fray Anton de Montesinos on the right.
All You Want To Know About The Oldest City In The Americas