Dominican Republic Day Two: Santo Domingo: Cathedrals, Forts And National Heroes.
On my second day in Santo Domingo , after a late breakfast, and an hour editing photos, I left my hotel to explore some more of the Zona Colonial. This section of the city was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. I love visiting these sites that preserve the history and culture of this small planet we share. Once again I walked down the the cobblestone streets of Calle Padre Billini. I was becoming familiar with the streets and parks of the old town.
I walked about a half mile in the hot mid day tropical sun and made my first stop at the first church and Cathedral in the Western Hemisphere, Catedral Primada de las Americas, also known as Cathedral of Santa María la Menor. As stated in my earlier blog there is some minor dispute here about this title but I will leave that for the scholars to resolve. I was again impressed by this magnificent building which construction was began in the early 16th century shortly after the arrival of Columbus.
I entered the beautiful Cathedral with a large group of, I believe Russian tourists who arrived on a cruise ship.
I love exploring old churches and stopped and admired the main altar and,
all of the twelve side chapels. Some of these had modern themes and others,
were as they were hundreds of years ago.
I thought of the many historic figures who may have worshiped here, including Cortez, Ponce de Leon and other noted Spanish explorers of the new world.
After the tourist left I spent some time reflecting on this historic and sacred place. And admiring the religious paintings and other works of art that adorned the walls.
Leaving the Cathedral, I took a look at the bell tower, destroyed by Sir Francis Drake when he invaded the islands and used the Cathedral as his headquarters in 1586. So much history that I never knew in Santo Domingo. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photographs of the cathedral. Dominican Republic Day Two Cathedral October 21 2021.
I left the Cathedral and walked through the adjoining Columbus Park. Even in the heat of the afternoon there was a lot of activity here, even among the large flocks of pigeons that are well feed by the local residents.
I left Columbus Park and walked over to another historic street, Las Damas. There is too much history to retell here. Many of the founders of the city and Nation lived along this street including Cortez, and briefly, Christopher Columbus,
lived in this house. I wish I had more time to explore.
But I didn’t so I moved on to my next historic site, the Panteon Nacional. I can best describe this as the Arlington National Cemetery of the Dominican Republic. Here, many of the national heroes, political leaders, military leaders and other distinguished citizens are buried. There is also memorial Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers for fought on behalf of the Dominican Republic. A guide told me much about this historic building.
I learned that this chandelier was a gift from President Franco of Spain,
The building itself was once a Jesuit Church in the early 1700’s. This impressive painting on the ceiling is a copy of a portion of Michelangelo’s famous painting on the Sistine Chapel.
An Eternal Flames burns which is guarded by by the military with a ceremonial changing of the guard every few hours.
Again so much to learn in such a short time. I left the Panteon and visited the adjoining Plaza Maria de Toledo,
where I learned a little about this remarkable woman, Maria de Toledo. She was a noble Spanish woman who came to the New World and defended the rights of the native peoples who were enslaved and abused. So much more to tell about here but please look at the link and learn about this courageous woman.
It was very hot now, and I was going to return to my hotel, but I came upon Fortaleza Ozama. Built in 1502 to defen Santo Domingo it is the oldest fort in the New World.
It also served as a prison and had once imprisoned the famous Christopher Columbus.
I walked along the walls of the old fort, imagining what the soldiers who also roamed these walls 500 years ago were thinking. Many were probably young, and left their native Spain looking for adventure. They came to an unexplored land with many perils, real and imagined.
I continued to walk up and down the stone steps exploring the fort, both interior
However, it was hot and rain clouds were forming. It was near 4 p.m. so I made my way back to my hotel.
I showered and spent the remainder of the afternoon editing photos and working on my blog. The sun sets around 6:15 pm here so around 5;30 I walked to Pat’e Palo the oldest restaurant in the Western Hemisphere.
Opened in 1505, I not only dined in a place where great explorers like Cortez, Columbus and Ponce de Leon may have dined, I also was served amazingly delicious food. My mushroom appetizer was awesome, as was.
my main course, a seafood pasta. I enjoyed the atmosphere, I sat outside and loved the view across from the Spanish Plaza,
After a delicious meal I took a quick walk back to my hotel as storm clouds approached. I made it back before the storms and, after editing photos, fell asleep as the rains continued to fall. It was the best sleep I had in months. Here is a link to some more photographs from my visit to the Panteon and Fortaleza Ozama. Dominican Republic Day Two . Santo Domingo Panteon and Fort October 21 2021.
A concerted effort to preserve our heritage is a vital link to our cultural, educational, aesthetic, inspirational and economic legacies – all of the things that quite literally make us who we are.” – Steve Berry