Anyone interested in learning more about the colonial history of what is now the Dominican Republic must eventually read up on the historic importance of the Convent of the Dominican Friars of Santo Domingo.
The Convent is home to the oldest Catholic Church and first university in the New World.
Its white and red brick medieval walls bear witness to 500 years of history. They bear witness to the struggles carried out by the Dominican Friars to stop the abuses that were being committed by the Spanish conquistadors against the native Taino population.
This struggle was officially launched on December 21, 1511 when Friar Anton Montesinos delivered a sermon protesting the abuses that were being committed by the authorities.
This interesting episode, now part of the universal history of human rights, is known as the “Montesinos Sermon.”
It is recognized as a crucial moment in the history of human rights. The sermon finally forced the Spanish Crown to adopt the “Indian Code,” the first official human rights registry.
The Convent’s church features Gothic and Roman architecture and its unique environment will literally take visitors back to the 16th century.
It features a vaulted ceiling and a majestic mahogany altar built in the 18th century.
The altar features Baroque-period gold leaf trimmings, as well as a central statue of Santo Domingo de Guzman, the founder of the Dominican order, who stands next to St. Catherine and the Virgin Mary.
The stain-glass religious windows were made by Dominican artist Jose Rincon Mora. The hand-carved wooden, stone and plaster altars are found throughout the small church.
Only One of Its Kinds in the Americas
The church itself has five chapels: The chapels of St. Thomas, the Rosary, the “Solano,” the “Altagracia” and the chapel of “Santa Ana.” The Chapel of the Rosary is unique to the Americas, because of lay symbols that reflect the symbols of the Zodiac and Greek mythology.
Artist Gilberto Fernandez was commissioned for the art work found in the chapel.
The passage of time has not diminished the beauty of this building nor its essence.
Visiting hours are from 8:30 a.m. until noon, and from 3:00 – 7:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Audio guides are available in Spanish, English, French, Russian and German.
The Museum of the Dominican Friars is situated on “Padre Billini” Street, corner of Duarte Avenue, in Santo Domingo’s Colonial Section. For more information, please call: 809-683-1817.
$150 pesos (about four US dollars) for international visitors; $100 pesos for national visitors and $40 pesos for children.
Mass schedules: Monday to Saturday at 7:00 a.m.; and Sunday at 8:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.