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Puerta de la Misericordia

Puerta de la Misericordia / Door of Mercy

The Puerta de la Misericordia, originally named Puerta de Santiago and Puerta Grande, was the first fortified gate of the city of Santo Domingo. The lone wall was once part of the original wall that ran along the edge of the First city in the Americas, from Puerta del Conde (Parque Independencia) to Fuerte San Gil at the edge of the sea.

Announcing Independence February 27, 1844 | The Statue of General Matías Ramón Mella

Puerta de la Misericordia panoramic view in  2013
Puerta de la Misericordia panoramic view in 2013

The door was designed by the architect Rodrigo de Liendo and constructed in 1543; the bulwarks were added in 1568. In the colonial period the gate served as access to the great plains of the south. The wall was connected to and protected by the military of the Fuerte de San Gil which is located just a few hundred feet south at the shore of the Caribbean.

Puerta de la Misericordia panoramic with the flag of Dominican Republic flying proudly above.
Puerta de la Misericordia panoramic with the flag of Dominican Republic flying proudly above.

The gate received its current name, Puerta Misericordia (Gate of Mercy), in 1842. At this time the survivors of the many earthquakes and storms that occurred on the island gathered here to place the Blessed Sacrament thanking God for his mercy.

Puerta de la Misericordia in the early morning.
Puerta de la Misericordia in the early morning.

Announcing Independence February 27, 1844

The Puerta de la Misericordia is the place that Ramón Matías Mella fired his legendary blunderbuss (a muzzle-loading firearm) of February 27, 1844, to announce the independence of the Dominican Republic from Haiti after taking back the Fortaleza Ozama. At the same time of this shot, Francisco del Rosario Sanchez hoisted the Dominican flag in the Fortaleza.

Puerta de la Misericordia look out tower accessed by the catwalk.
Puerta de la Misericordia look out tower accessed by the catwalk.

Interesting Facts

*Near the door is a courtyard that held a scaffold used to execute those who were condemned to death. At one time there was a small chapel located in the courtyard.

*During the archaeological excavations in 1980, two small fortines (semicircular forts) that once flanked the walls were discovered.

*Located in the small plaza is a statue of Ramón Matías Mella, one of the Founding Fathers of the country.

The statue of Ramón Matías Mella at the Puerta de la Misericordia
The statue of Ramón Matías Mella at the Puerta de la Misericordia

The area surrounding the gate is now a nice little place to visit. You can sit and enjoy the view of the Fort San Gil and the Caribbean Sea located across the Malecon. There is also a Colmado across the street where you can get a little refreshment after walking around the Colonial City. You can notice that there is a catwalk over the top of the wall but it is blocked. Some of the original wall has been cut to make room for the street to pass making accessing the walk difficult.

The view of the Gate of Mercy from Calle Padre Billini with Palo Hincado passing in front.
The view of the Gate of Mercy from Calle Padre Billini with Palo Hincado passing in front.

Directions:

From The Calle el Conde at Parque Independencia walk towards the sea on Calle Palo Hincado the street that separates Ciudad Colonial from Ciudad Nueva. Calle Arzobispo Portes stops at the door.

Plaza Patriótica at the Puerta de la Misericordia honoring General Matías Ramón Mella
Plaza Patriótica at the Puerta de la Misericordia honoring General Matías Ramón Mella

The Statue of General Matías Ramón Mella

Plaza Patriótica / Patriotic Square
General Matías Ramón Mella
February 25, 1816 – June 4, 1864

Located in front of Puerta Misericordia was a bust statue Ramón Matías Mella, one of the Founding Fathers of the Republica Dominicana. It was replaced with a full body statue honoring the anniversary of Mellas birth.

Close up of the statue honoring General Matías Ramón Mella
Close up of the statue honoring General Matías Ramón Mella

The plaque on the statue monument reads:
En homenaje al Padre de la Patria,
General Matías Ramón Mella
Héroe de la Independencia y de la
Restauración de la República Dominicana,
considerado el más grande genio y
estratega militar dominicano
de todos los tiempos.
Político liberal. Independentista eterno.

(English translation)
In homage to the Father of the Nation,
General Matías Ramón Mella
Hero of Independence and the
Restoration of the Dominican Republic,
considered the greatest genius and
Dominican military strategist
of all times.
Liberal politician. Eternal independence.

CPEP
Comision Permanente / Permanent Commission
From Efemerides Patrias

Proyecto Patriótico de Cultura Cívica / Patriotic Civic Culture Project
Foundación Luces y Sombras

Bicentenario de su natalicio / Bicentennial of his birth
25 Febrero 2016

Gobierno Constitucional
Lic. Danilo Medina Sánchez
2012-2016

The bust of General Matías Ramón Mella what was replaced by the statue.
The bust of General Matías Ramón Mella what was replaced by the statue.

The bust of Sanchez that was replaced by the statue read:

Gobierno Constitucional
Dr. Leonel Fernández
2004-2008

Nicolás Ovando

Frey Nicolás Ovando

(1451-1511)

Frey Nicolás Ovando y Cáceres was born into a rich family in Spain.
In 1502 he become the third Governor and Captain-General of the Indies. There were too many complaints about then Governor Francisco de Bobadilla. Ovando replaced Bobadilla and served as the Governor of Hispaniola between 1502 and 1509.

When Ovando arrived to take over his appointed post as governor of Santo Domingo he brought with him over 30,000 colonists to populate the island.

Frey Nicolás Ovando y Cáceres

Ovando was a conquistador. In a very short time he exploited and enslaved the islands indigenous peoples. He exterminating entire towns (Slaughter of Jaragua and Higüey), conquering and enslaving the native people. He forced the natives to work in homes and to plant crops, including the introduction of sugar cane. He used them to mine for gold. They were used as slaves on the ships that returned to Spain.

Ovandos type of governing was the model of the great conquering of Spain in the new world. He commissioned expeditions of discovery and conquest throughout the Caribbean, all from his offices here in Hispaniola. He founded 17 villages and cities on the island. He instituted the first town halls.

Under Ovandos rule the Spanish colony of Santo Domingo became very rich. The wealth cost the lives of almost all of the original native inhabitants of the island.

Anacaona

One of first terrible acts Ovando committed when he became Governor was to order the arrest of Anacaona. Anacaona was a Taíno queen. Ovando had his army search for and find her. While searching for her the army massacred many of the indigenous peoples. Anacaona was executed by hanging. After her death many of the natives fled their island home.

Statue of Anacaona in Parque Colon

A statue of Anacona can be seen in Parque Colón climbing up the side of the Columbus statue.

Frey Nicolas de Ovando statue in Plaza España

Return To Spain

King Ferdinand V made the brutal Ovando return to Spain in 1509. He was ordered to return because of his brutal treatment of the native people. Diego Columbus was then appointed as Ovandos successor as governor.

Ovando returned to Spain a rich man. He was permitted to keep all the property and riches he acquired while exploiting the island and its native people.

Home of Ovando on Calle las Damas

Remembering Ovando

The very large and elaborate home of Ovando is located on Calle las Damas and is now elaborate Hostal Nicolás de Ovando.

There is a huge bronze statue in the center of Plaza España honoring the 3rd Governor of Santo Domingo. In the stone pedestal on which the statue stands are the inscriptions “Comendador Mayor de la Orden de Alcántara” / “Supreme commander of the Order of Alcantara” and “Fundador de la Nueva Ciudad de Santo Domingo” / “Founder of the New City of Santo Domingo”.

The outline of the bronze statue of Fray Nicolás Ovando in Plaza Espana

Some of Ovandos accomplishments

*The appointment of Fray Nicolas de Ovando as governor of Santo Domingo was instrumental in the construction of the historical and tourist center today known as Colonial Zone. He gave it the charm and charisma it still has to this day.

*The governor built in the Ciudad Primada/ First City streets and buildings, such as the Convento de San Francisco/ Convent of San Francisco, Hospital de San Nicolás/ St. Nicholas Hospital, la Casa de La Moneda/ Casa de La Moneda, La Torre del Homenaje/ the Tower of Homage many beautiful private homes and also many streets including Calle del Rey/ King Street, later called Calle de las Damas.

*Villa Nueva Isabela, now called Villa Duarte, was the original settlement founded by Bartolomé Colón It is located on the other side of the Rio Ozama. The settlement was hit by a major hurricane in 1502 and almost destroyed. Fray Nicolás de Ovando was responsible for moving the settlement to the west bank of the Ozama River where Zona Colonial is now located.

*The Franciscan Monks arrived in 1502 under the command of Nicolas of Ovando. They started the construction of the the first monastery in the new world in 1508. El Monasterio de San Francisco now stands in ruins.

Columbus Palace

Columbus Royal Palace / Palacio Virreinal Alcázar de Colón

1. Alcázar de Colón 2. Museo Alcázar de Colón 3. Maria de Toledo Statue 4. Directions

Alcázar de Colón

The Palacio Virreinal Alcázar de Colón (Colón is the Spanish word for Columbus), short name is Alcazar de Colon. In English it is known as The Palace of Columbus. This beautiful historical monument and UNESCO site is a 22 room stone home. It was built by Christopher Columbus’son, Don Diego Colón and his wife.

The Palacio Virreinal Alcazar de Colon and the Puerta San Diego as seen from the Malecon entering the Colonial City.
The Palacio Virreinal Alcazar de Colon and the Puerta San Diego as seen from the Malecon entering the Colonial City.

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 Palacio Virreinal Alcazar de Colon in ruins 1910
The Palacio Virreinal Alcazar de Colon in ruins 1910

The building was restored by highly skilled stone cutters under 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 front porch of the Palace
The front porch of the Palace

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 in 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 by those who want to learn about Santo Domingo’s historical beginnings.

The front porch of the Palace
The front porch of the Palace

Museum of the Royal Houses / Museo Alcazar de Colón

Inside the Museum of Alcazar Colón
Inside the Museum of Alcazar 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 in to this day.

Inside the museum
Inside the museum

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 taken or destroyed.

Suit of Armor in the museum Alcazar de Colón
Suit of Armor in the museum

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

The statue of Maria de Toledo on the side of the Alcazar
The statue of Maria de Toledo on the side of the Alcazar

It is also important to note that 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).

Maria de Toledo statue close
Maria de Toledo statue close

Maria 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.

*Note- Mid-2017 the statue was moved to the Plaza Maria de Toledo between Isabel la Católica and Calle las Damas.

Alcazar de Colon in the morning.
Alcazar de Colon in the morning.

Directions

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.