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Ruins of the first monastery built in the Americas

The ruins of the first monastery built in the Americas are surrounded by walls that were once built with reddish brown clay.

The ruins of the San Francisco Monastery, found in Santo Domingo’s Colonial Section, have witnessed 500 years of the history of Santo Domingo, the capital city of the Dominican Republic.

Because of its historic importance, the ruins are now part of the country’s proud heritage and are protected by law. Today, the ruins are used for concerts and other cultural events.


The structure of what was once a 16th century monastery combines various architectural styles.

The monastery was once protected by high stone and clay walls, depicting the Renaissance style of its day. Simple stone carvings are still seen on the outer walls, and the main wrought-iron gate reflects a post-classical style.

Once inside, Gothic details prevail in the beams that once supported the overall structure. All of the windows are adorned with flared arches, and the floors were a mixture of hand-made blue tiles.

The monastery itself was divided into three distinct areas: the Convent, the Chapel of the Third Franciscan Order, and the old Franciscan Building.


Construction on the Monastery of San Francisco began in 1508, with the arrival of the first Franciscans to the island.

At the time, the island was under the command of Governor Nicolas de Ovando.

Completed on July 23, 1556, the building was strangely baptized by the island inhabitants as “The House of the Devil” because the structural design resembled a military fort.

Within the walls of this fortress was where the members of the Franciscan order educated the “Cacique” Enriquillo, the island’s last Taino Chieftain. His battles against the Spanish conquerors are legendary.

The monastery was attacked by the English pirate Francis Drake in 1586. It was also partially destroyed by earthquakes in 1673 and 1751. In 1930, a devastating hurricane seriously damaged the structure.

However, and in spite of these devastating events, parts of the structure remained standing and were used at one point as a mental health hospital.

According to historians, the remains of important Spanish officials stationed on the island– such as that of Bartholomew Columbus, Christopher’s brother – were buried in the monastery’s front entrance.

Source: Access DR

Category: DR News |

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Last updated March 28, 2017 at 5:33 PM
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