Church and Convent of los Dominicos

The Church and Convent of los Dominicos of the Colonial City of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, is the oldest Catholic building in continuous use in the Americas, and also, according to the UNESCO, it was the headquarters of the first university in the Americas,[1] which was called the Universidad Santo Tomás de Aquino. Today it is part of the Colonial City complex, as a World Heritage Site.

View of the front facade


Church and Convent of los Dominicos (at center) in 1855 by Sir John Corbett.[2]

The Church and Convent of los Dominicos is one of the oldest European buildings in the American continent. Its construction begins with the arrival of the Dominican Order in Santo Domingo, around 1510.

By 1517, the convent was inhabited by the friars, although it was not yet finished. In 1530 the church was in the completion stage, between the years 1531–1532,[3][4] by Carmonese architects Antón and Alonso Gutiérrez;[4] its official inauguration took place, with the presence of the friars Pedro de Córdoba, Reginaldo de Montesino, Bartolomé de las Casas and Antonio de Montesinos,[4] the latter, he was the one who said the famous Sermón de Adviento[4] in 1511, and who reprimanded the court of Diego Columbus for the mistreatment of the Natives, thus beginning the so-called Derecho de Gentes, which became one of the main controversies of the 16th century. thus generating the first controversy of the New World.

View of the Church and Covent of los Dominicos from Calle Billini.

In 1534 the convent began its classes, and in 1538 it became the first university in the Americas, which was called the Universidad Santo Tomás de Aquino and later the Primate University of America, which today we know as the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo. (UASD). This began under the mandate of the Bula In Apostolatus Culmine, which was blessed by Pope Paul III, this university also had the characteristic of the University of Salamanca.

One of the main specialties of this university was Theology, from which great important figures of the colonial life of the time emerged. Great personalities from the Antilles and Mainland were trained at this university. During the 1540s, the church reached one of its greatest peaks, in this area of ​​study and university education and training.

The church and convent have a beautiful façade, with great splendor, since the Gothic, Isabelline Gothic and Baroque architecture stands out, which greatly predominated in the constructions of the time, not only in the country but also throughout Americas. In the building there are valuable images and statues, which were the work of the Sevillian brothers Jorge and Ajejo Fernández, and at the beginning of the 16th century, it had five altarpieces by one of the most famous Spanish painters of the colonial era, Juan Martínez Montañés.

Current barrel vault (background's ceiling in the image) was made in 1746.[4]

Over the years, to this day, the church has undergone major changes and severe damage to its architecture, one of which was in 1545 with the passage of a hurricane,[4] and during the passage of the pirate Francis Drake, it was the only building that did not suffer any damage, since the famous pirate of the time respected the sanctuaries.[5][4] During the years 1684 and 1673, two earthquakes occurred on the island, respectively, which hit the island hard, destroying its roof and some rooms.[4] In 1746 the building was restored again, with a different structure on each of its facades, thus imposing the Baroque style. In 1825, the church was closed by the Haitian government, although some time later it was a shelter for several religious orders and in 1954 the Dominicans returned to the country and recovered their old home.

Inside the Church is the Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary, which was built in 1649. In this chapel, the Virgin of the Rosary, who is the patron saint of the Dominicans, was venerated.

High on the wall of the eastern length, a grave (the only one on the island) is a further echo of Isabeline Gothic.[4]

In the modifications of 1746, the chapel was rebuilt by the new owners of the chapel, the Campuzano Polanco family, who replaced the wooden frame of the nave with the current barrel vault. This vault of the chapel was decorated with the twelve signs of the zodiac around the sun, and for this reason it is also called the "Chapel of the Zodiac". Also in the vault there are other characters such as the Twelve Olympians who represent the four seasons. This chapel is unique in the Americas of its kind and one of the three vaults with astrological representations that currently exist in the world, together with the Chapel of Salamanca and Río Seco.[6]


The Convent of los Dominicos (left) and the Chapel of la Tercera Orden Dominica (right)

The Church and Convent of los Dominicos is located on Calle Padre Billini, in the Colonial area, in the city of Santo Domingo de Guzmán, Dominican Republic.


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Colonial City of Santo Domingo". UNESCO World Heritage Sites website.
  2. ^ "Fifteen views of the Caribbean - WEST INDIES ; CORBETT Sir John (1855.)". Maggs Bros Ltd.
  3. ^ Relación de fray Tomás de la Torre, apud FRAY FRANCISCO XIMNEZ - Historia de la Provincia de San Vicente de Chiapa y Guatemala. Guatemala. Ignacio Larramendi Foundation. Madrid, Spain. 1929. pp. 272, 292 reprod: 112.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Convent of the Dominican Order website - History and Art". pp. 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 15.
  5. ^ In the interrogation of 1586 it appears among the rescued buildings, cf. Relations, Il, answers to question VI, pp. 59 and 64. The damage was limited to altarpieces and images, cf. also FRAY DIEGO DE LA MAZA, O. P.: Memorial... of the state of the Imperial convent of Santo Domingo, order of Preachers, on the island of Española. Madrid, 1693, reproduction. in "A.d.U. St.D.", 1953, XVIII, pp. 151 sq. (according to the newly found University of Michigan Clements Library copy), ch. SAW.
  6. ^ "The Rosario Chapel". Convent of the Dominican Order website.
  7. ^ A sepulchral slab, made of beautiful Genoese marble, bears the rays of a great sun under the family coat of arms, an obvious allusion to the vault; says: “THIS BURIAL BELONGS TO SS. CAMPUSANOS POLANCOS DE LA ISLAND AND CITY/OF S. DOM[ING]O LIKE THE CHAPEL IN WHICH IT IS. THIS SLAB WAS ORDERED TO BE PLACED BY MR. REG[IDOR] DEAN OF D[IC]HA CIUDAD D[O]N JOSEPH, CAMPUSANO YEAR 1758". Don Juan José Polanco Campuzano, brother of the Dominican Provincial Gregorio Polanco Campuzano, became rich between 1726 and 1731, arming Corsos, see PALM: A vault with cosmo-theological representations, page 222.

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