The First Cathedral of the Americas, situated in the capital city of Santo Domingo, has been included on the list of the Caribbean’s top ten tourist attractions, according to the Travellers’ Choice Awards 2014, among the ten most interesting tourist attractions in the Caribbean, according to TripAdvisor’s 2014 Travellers’ Choice Awards.
The Cathedral of Santo Domingo, the First in the Americas, is dedicated to St. Mary of the Incarnation.
The Oldest Cathedral in the Americas
The official name of this important historical monument is St. Mary’s Metropolitan Cathedral, First in the Americas.
However, its most popular name is “The First Cathedral of the Americas.”
The Cathedral is situated in the very heart of Santo Domingo’s Colonial Zone, next to the Zone’s famous Columbus Plaza.
It is the oldest church and cathedral in the Americas. Construction of the colonial structure began in 1512, led by Bishop García Padilla.
Although the original idea was to build a simple church, the entire project changed with the arrival of Bishop Alexander Geraldini in 1519.
He changed the original plans and in 1521 launched the project to build a large and imposing temple.
The building was finally consecrated, as is the tradition of the Catholic Church, in 1521. On February 12, 1546, Pope Paul III named it the First Metropolitan Cathedral of the Americas. Pope Benedict XV declared it a Minor Basilica in 1920.
A Combination of Styles
The Cathedral is the Colonial Zone’s most important structure. Its architecture brings together various styles, such as a Baroque altar, a Gothic ceiling and two doors, and 12 Renaissance-style chapels (one dedicated to an Apostol).
The Cathedral was designed and built by architect Alonso Rodriguez, who later on designed Mexico’s world-famous Cathedral.
The central nave of the church is 54 meters long, while the three combined naves total 23 meters wide. The height, from ceiling to floor, is 16 meters while the total building structure occupies 3,000 square meters.
The Cathedral is rich in art treasures, such as altarpieces, paintings (including a panel of the Virgin of “La Altagracia” dating back to 1523), period woodwork, furniture and tombstones dating back to 1540, among other objects.
Historians believed that the remains of Christopher Columbus were buried in the Cathedral. These remains were transferred to the Columbus Lighthouse, in Santo Domingo, to mark the fifth centennial of the discovery of the Americas.
Audio Guides Available (Audio Guide)
This impressive colonial structure is located in Santo Domingo’s Colonial Zone, surrounded by colonial structures that date back to the 16th century.
On its north side is the quaint Columbus Plaza, where visitors can rest and take in the hustle and bustle of the surrounding neighborhood.
Nearby are hotels, restaurants, museums and many shops.
The Cathedral is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and offers tourists an excellent audio guide in various languages.