San Cristobal Province: Home to the Caribbean’s Sistine Chapel

Situated in the country’s southwest region, and just a few kilometers from the capital city of Santo Domingo, the province of San Cristobal was also where the country’s first Constitution was signed.

But, the province is also where visitors will find the Our Lady of Consolation Church, a Catholic church that many have compared to the Sistine Chapel.

Its beautiful murals were painted by Spanish-Dominican artist Jose Vela Zanetti.

The church was built by dictator Rafael Trujillo, to substitute the Sacred Heart Church which was completely destroyed by an earthquake that impacted the country in 1946.

Its architect, Henry Gazon, created a church consisting of three arches topped by a dome that separates the two lateral arches from the central arch.

Spanish-Dominican painter Jose Vela Zanetti painted the murals that appear in the Church’s walls and dome.

His murals depict Biblical scenes, a Middle Age tradition that he recreated in the heart of the Caribbean.

The murals reveal scenes from the Old Testament, as well as various images of the Virgin Mary and important scenes from the life of Christ.

Just as Michelangelo did in the Sistine Chapel in Rome, Vela Zanetti painted his characters with muscular and athletic bodies.

However, Vela Zanetti dressed his characters with clothing and reveals in his paintings his attraction to the Apocalypse.

The Church offers the visitor a glimpse into the artistry and international talent of painter Vela Zanetti.

Vela Zanetti

This well-known Spanish muralist (1913-1999), born in the Spanish town of Burgos, came to the Dominican Republic during the 1936 Spanish Civil War.

Many of the murals he painted in the country are found in important government buildings and cities.

For years he worked on the murals of the San Cristobal Church.  His work was recognized by the Guggenheim Foundation.

Later on, he was chosen to paint a mural at the United Nations, titled the “Road to Liberty” .

Art historians have stated that the original idea behind the mural was to condemn the Nazi Holocaust, but ended up depicting the value of peace and rejection of racism and violence.

By: Milka Hernández

Photos: Máximo Zorrilla

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