The Route of "Los Ingenios"
The monuments preserved from our history are a store of incalculable value. They allow us to imagine a city’s religious life centuries ago, to recreate the manner in which an ancient metropolis defended itself against pirate raids, to see the way in which they distributed their official posts and to witness the care with which they designed their buildings. This holds true in city like Santo Domingo, which prides itself on being a significant cultural destination, that has, on its oldest perimeter, its Colonial City, this legacy that defines in walls, roofs and profiles of clay and stone a way of life that has enriched history for generations. From the inventories that local authorities, institutions and international experts have done throughout the years, proposals for tours have been made according to the social, cultural or official function of the buildings. The suggestions can be summarized into five fundamental routes: the Route of Firsts, the Civil Route, the Religious Route and the Military Route.
The Firsts of America
Santo Domingo was the first European city of renaissance structure in America. Its squared outline, with its wide and rectilinear streets, is a living reflection of the Cartesian and rationalist ideal that had begun to take root in western thought. Built by the Governor of the island, Nicolás de Ovando, it received some of the first European institutions transplanted to the New World, including temples, monasteries, palaces, hospitals, murals, public buildings and a notable drainage system.
Santo Domingo’s status as the first great European city in America is a fundamental fact for the traveler that steps onto this centuries old land and does not want to leave without understanding the significance of the event. She must seek out what palpable physical evidence remains of the significant colonial heritage of the city.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) officially recognized the value held in colonial buildings of the city Santo Domingo when it declared the zone a “World Heritage Site”.
The Catedral Metropolitana Santa María de la Encarnación
In the building, the gothic style of its structure, a church with three naves, the central one wider than the others, contrasts with the Italian character of its main façade, adorned with Renaissance motifs.
Its formal construction began in March 1523 and was completed around 1541. Pope Paul III gave it the status of First and Metropolitan Cathedral of the Indies in 1546, at the behest of King Charles V.
Its three doors give a unique characteristic to the temple, that until 1992, sheltered the remains of Christopher Columbus. Two doors remain in gothic style, and the other in the Plateresque style.
Alcázar de Colón (Columbus’s Citadel) or the Viceroy Palace of Don Diego Columbus
Don Diego Colón, son of Grand Admiral Christopher Columbus, occupied a mansion together with his wife María de Toledo, in his post as one of the first viceroys of America. It wsa constructed at the beginning of the 16th century and has been restored to preserve its Moorish style. Furniture, tapestries, beds and utensils of the period make up a valuable demonstration of the way of life of the first Spanish colonizers. From the residence, one can see the Río Ozama, and across from it is the Plaza de España, a place that was the essence of life in the old city, as on it, the first street of the city of the continent was born: Las Damas street.
The cobblestone road received the wife of the viceroy, who passed by with her court in the afternoon, in a ritual to manifest the imperial power she wielded.
San Nicolás de Bari Hospital
The first governor of the city, Nicolás de Ovando, assumed, among his many works, the construction of the first hospital on the continent, named San Nicolás de Bari, whose construction concluded in 1522, after the brotherhood of Nuestra Señora de la Concepción took responsibility of continuing the work that took more than 20 years to finish.
Though destined to heal the sick, the building also served as a temple. It came to assist up to 700 people a year, a heroic feat for the period.
Its ruins, visited each day by hundreds of pigeons, compose one of the most beautiful and emblematic scenes of the area. Its history is highlighted by the fact that the pirate Francis Drake respected it during his raids on the city.