Colonial Museums: A Magical Journey through Local History

Santo Domingo’s Colonial Zone was the first built by the European settlers who first arrived on the island.

Some of the homes built by the Spaniards in the 16th century are now museums that depict the country’s early history. A stroll through the streets of the Colonial Zone will lead the visitor on a magical journey through history.

The paths first opened in Santo Domingo became the gateway used by the Spaniards to introduce their culture in the Americas.

The history of this period has been carefully preserved in local museums, featuring pieces and information on historic events that marked the country’s colonial period and its influence on contemporary culture. Priceless objects, documents, period clothing, weapons and architectural details reveal the lifestyle of the settlers and the transition of the country to modern times.

Columbus Alcazar

This museum, which is one of the most visited Santo Domingo, is the oldest Viceregal residence in the Americas, and was the official residence of Diego Columbus, the son of Christopher Columbus.

The palace is an impressive construction of coralline blocks that once featured some fifty rooms and it is believed to have been the official residence of at least three generations of the Columbus family, possibly until 1577. The Palace then became the official residence of key Spanish figures on the island.

There are approximately 800 pieces on exhibit.

Location: Spanish Square, Colonial Zone.

Hours: Daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

“Casas Reales” Museum

During the Colonial period this museum was once the Palace of the Spanish Captain General or Palace of the Royal Court. The first government offices of the Americas were actually established in this particular building, which at one point was home to nine Spanish Crown offices. One wing of the building was known as the Palace of the Governors, since in 1526 became the official residence of the Governor of the island. The other building was the actual Palace of the Royal Court.

Location: Las Damas Street.

Hours: Daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

“Casa de Tostado”

This was one of the first luxury residences built during the Colonial period. It was the home of the clerk of Governor Francisco de Tostado. Later on it was the official residence of the Archbishop of Santo Domingo. One of the building’s main attractions is a unique Elizabethan Gothic window, the only one of its kind in the Americas.

The building is now the Museum of the 19th Century Dominican Family, featuring authentic period pieces, including the beautiful painting titled “The Adoration of the Magi”, attributed to the 16th century Spanish painter Juan de Juanes.

Also featured is a glass ceramic piece that once belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte and donated by the French government to the 19th century Dominican president Ulises Heureaux.

Location: Arzobispo Merino Street.

Hours: Monday – Saturday: 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Convent of the Dominican

The Convent is one of the oldest and most important buildings built by the Spaniards in the New World.

The building was once the official residence of the Dominican religious order, the first missionaries to arrive in the Americas.

This particular religious order was an avid defender of the native Indian population, and publicly protested against the abuses committed against them by the Spaniards.

Fray Antonio Montesinos, an important member of the Order, delivered in 1511 the “Montesinos Sermon,” where he publicly protested against the abuse committed against the native population and the newly arrived African slaves. .

The convent’s church features an interesting mix of architectural styles that range from the Romanesque to Baroque styles. The church also features five interior chapels, one of which, The Chapel of the Rosary, was decorated with the zodiac signs around the sun.

Also featured were the four Greek mythology figures that represented the four seasons. It is a unique structure in the Americas, and is one of the three Church domes in existence featuring astrological signs.

The Convent was also the continent’s first academic institution. The first classes began in 1534 and, in 1538, through an order issued by Pope Paul III, the Convent became the University of St. Thomas of Aquinas, the first in the Americas. Today, the university is known as the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo. The museum provides visitors with audio tours in various languages.

Location: Padre Billini Street.

Hours: Daily from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

“Las Atarazanas” Naval Museum

The museum is a unique experience for those who love to hear tales of ships and shipwrecks. It is located in the building that was once home to the former Royal Shipyards, which were once the warehouses that stored the goods brought in from Europe.

The Royal Shipyards was the island’s most important commercial center.

The museum currently features the continent’s richest collection of underwater archeology, exhibiting valuable pieces recovered from shipwrecks found in Dominican territorial waters, including guns, china, coins, cutlery and actual recovered pieces of the ships.

Location: Colon Street, Colonial Zone.

Hours: Monday to Sunday 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

This post is also available in: Spanish, French, German

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