The Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo, the splendors of the first city of the new world

The Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo, the splendors of the first city of the new world

The Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo,  evidenced by an impressive showing of historic ruins, remains and preserved monuments.

As the first city in the Americas, Santo Domingo’s colonial sector proudly boasts the first cathedral, fortress, hospital, monastery, university, palace and street. A stroll down the cobblestone streets of the old sector reveals the days of yesteryear.

Cathedral of Our Holy Lady Mary of the Incarnation, First of the Americas

This is the first and the oldest cathedral in the New World, in operation since Diego Columbus, son of the great explorer, set the cornerstone in 1514. Actual construction didn’t begin until the arrival of Alejandro Geraldini, the first bishop, in 1521.

In 1546 it was consecrated by Pope Paul III and got its name “Catedral Metropolitana de las Indias.” Because of the different stages of construction and renovations, the cathedral is built in several styles: Gothic, Plateresque, Romanesque and Baroque.

From 1504-1514, the “cathedral” was made of royal palms, a temporary structure that was replaced by another temporary structure made of wood and adobe.

Diego Columbus, son of the great admiral, laid the cornerstone of the second structure in 1514. But the actual construction of the Gothic/Romanesque cathedral didn’t start until 1521 under the influence of Bishop Alejandro Geraldini.

It was mostly build with funds from the wealthy Bastidas family. The cathedral was designed by master builder Rodrigo de Liendo.

The principal part of the structure was completed in 1544, the year María de Toledo, the widow of Christopher Columbus’s son, brought the remains of both her husband and his father to Santo Domingo from Spain for interment near the cathedral’s main altar.

(In 1898, the Admiral’s remains were placed in a chestlike-urn and exhibited in an ornate monument within the cathedral; the urn and its monument were moved to the Columbus Lighthouse in 1992).

Various cloisters and office quarters were added to the cathedral over the centuries, plus eight chapels-these were added in the 18th century. The cathedral’s design combines three gothic vaults, Spanish Renaissance facades, and Romanesque arches with baroque decorations. The surface of the building exceeds 3000 m2, its central nave measures 54 m in length.


Alcazar of Diego Colon


Diego Columbus had this palace built immediately after his arrival in Santo Domingo. A Spanish architect and 1500 Indian slaves continuously worked on it from 1511 until 1515.

The building has two stories (though it was originally three), constructed with gothic, Moorish and renaissance influences.

Not one nail was used in its construction, not even to construct the 72 windows and doors. Nowadays it houses a colonial museum.