Iglesia del Espíritu Santo, Havana
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The Iglesia del Espíritu Santo at #161 Calle Acosta was built in 1635 on the corner of the corner of Calles Cuba and Acosta by a fraternity of Afro-Cuban ex slaves. The Espíritu Santo contains some notable paintings including a seated, post-crucifixion Christ on the right wall, and catacombs. It is considered one of the oldest temples in Havana and it is said that its main interest lies essentially in the simplicity or simplicity of the beautiful stone construction.
|'Iglesia del Espíritu Santo'|
|District||Archdiocese of San Cristóbal de la Habana|
|Ecclesiastical or organizational status||Parish|
|Direction of façade||East|
|Width (nave)||10 m|
|Height (max)||15 m|
|Materials||Coral stone, wood|
The church was rebuilt and expanded in 1648 and given the rank of a parish. During the colonial era it had an exceptional importance, since by a Papal Bull of 1772 and a Royal Certificate of 1773, of Charles III of Spain, it was declared "Única Iglesia inmune en esta ciudad, construida en 1855." (”the only immune church in this city, built in 1855."), which meant that any persecuted individual could find Amparo (sanctuary) in it against the action of the authorities or of justice. A metal plaque at the foot of the bell tower attests to this fact.
Many illustrious people of Havana were baptized in this church, among them the educator José de la Luz y Caballero. Bishop Gerónimo Valdés, a founder of La Casa de Beneficencia y Maternidad de La Habana, was buried in it. The master sepulchre of Bishop Valdés was found in 1936.
There are original paintings by the Cuban painter José Nicolás de la Escalera ("Cuba's first painter") and Aristides Fernandez (20th Century), among them the large oil painting titled The Burial of Christ.
The Iglesia del Espíritu Santo's greatest interest from an architectural point of view lies in the simplicity of the coral stone construction and the lack of lavish decoration. Other elements of great importance are the funerary crypts that were discovered in 1953. The crypt is from times before the Colon Cemetery (1876) in El Vedado was built. The crypt is entered from the left of the altar and contains several catacombs.
The building was built in the "uni-nave" style, as pointed out by Joaquín Weiss, a Cuban architect and historian and one of the most authoritative authorities on the subject. Uni-nave was the style of Cuban religious constructions in the seventeenth century and meant that it originally had only one central nave. An additional side nave In the first years of the XVIII century, the bell tower was built and around 1720 the vault of the presbytery was built. In 1760, Bishop D. Pedro Morell of Santa Cruz ordered the construction of a nave (8x29m) lateral to the main temple nave.
The church sits on a plinth of about 18 cm that may be seen along Calles Cuba and Acosta. The building is 60m long as measured on the exterior, East-West along Calle Acosta, although from the interior it appears that the last 10m was a later addition as the walls of this ten-meter square room are thinner (along Calle Acosta) and the roof structure does not span the ten-meter dimension. There is a column in the middle of the room to distribute the weight of the roof.
There are seven bays of approximately fifty-seven centimetres in length along the main nave. The first bay at the entrance is the shortest of about five meters in length and contains a balcony above which is reached by the stairs of the belfry. The elliptical arch supported by matching pilasters at opposite walls date from 1808 which is the year of the construction of the bell tower. In the middle of the XIX century, the entire wall that faces Acosta Street was rebuilt and the main façade was remodelled. The three-story bell-tower was built in the year 1808 and it is located immediately to the left of the church upon entering, it is one of the tallest structure in Old Havana. The tower was built by the master Pedro Hernández de Santiago.
There are five window along the Calle Acosta wall and, except for the window in the presbytery which aligns with the center of the room, do not align with the grid of the columns. Thus the windows appear to be haphazardly placed without regard for the geometry of the nave or the rhythm of the structure.
The roof of the church terminates on the interior in a wooden ceiling of paired cross-tie braces and hidden tie backs springing from every column and supported on wooden corbels. The wood cross-tie brace ceiling is common construction in Havana and may be seen in the wooden ceiling of the Church of Santo Cristo del Buen Viaje at Amargura and Cristo Streets in Havana Vieja and Iglesia de Santa Clara de Asis
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