Basilica Cathedral of Santa María la Menor
|Cathedral of Santa María la Menor|
Front entrance to the Cathedral of Santa María la Menor
|Location||Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic|
|Province||Archdiocese of Santo Domingo|
|Official name: Colonial City of Santo Domingo|
|Criteria:||ii, iv, vi|
|Designated:||1990 (21st session)|
|State Party:||Dominican Republic|
|Region:||Latin America and the Caribbean|
The Cathedral of Santa María la Menor in the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo is dedicated to St. Mary of the Incarnation. It is the oldest cathedral in the Americas, begun in 1512 and completed in 1540. It is the Cathedral of the Archbishop of Santo Domingo who has the honorary title of Primate of the Americas because Santo Domingo was the first Catholic diocese established in the New World.
It is located between Calle Arzobispo Merino and Isabel la Católica, next to Columbus Park in the city of Santo Domingo de Guzman.
The Cathedral is fronted with a golden-tinted coral limestone façade, the church combines elements of both Gothic and Baroque with some lavish plateresque styles as exemplified by the high altar chiseled out of silver. There is also a treasury which has an excellent art collection of ancient woodcarvings, furnishings, funerary monuments, silver, and jewelry.
The Cathedral was commissioned by Pope Julius II in 1504 and its construction began in 1512 under the leadership of Bishop Fray García Padilla. The arrival of Bishop Alexander Geraldini in 1519 motivated the construction of a temple of greater solemnity, so it was decided to build the current church, whose foundation stone was laid in 1521. The construction was carried out by Luis Moya, according to plans designed by Alonso Rodriguez, of Seville, Spain. By 1523, the construction achieved continuous progress until his its consecration in 1541. On February 12, 1546, at the request of Emperor Charles V, Pope Paul III granted the status of Metropolitan Cathedral and Primate of the Americas. Francis Drake when he captured the city in 1586, used the cathedral as his headquarters and saved it from destruction. It was also the headquarters of the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo, which bore the aforementioned title of Primate. In 1920, Pope Benedict XV designated the Cathedral a Minor Basilica in his Inter Americae.
The first noticeable feature of the structure are the solid limestone walls and three doors, two of which are gothic and the third main door which is plateresque. There are twelve side chapels, three aisles and a nave. The roof of the nave is pitched, while the aisles have cross vaulted ceilings. The length of the basilica is 54 metres (177 ft), the width of each of the three aisles is 23 metres (75 ft), the height to the vaulted ceilings is 16 metres (52 ft) and the total area is 3,000 square metres (32,000 sq ft). All of the side chapels were not included in the original footprint of the building, rather they were appended with time.
The cathedral has a treasury containing retablos, paintings, old woodwork, furniture, sculptures and tombstones. There are pieces that were involved with the funeral proceedings of several colonial archbishops. Interestingly, there is a tombstone of Simon Bolivar, one of the ancestors of the Liberator Simon Bolivar. Of note, the remains of Christopher Columbus were once housed at the cathedral, before their final resting place in the Faro a Colon.
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