Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Monastery of San Francisco, Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo, founded by Bartholomew Columbus in 1498 to serve as the capital of Spanish imperialism in the New World, boasts a great many firsts. Among them is the first monastery in the Americas, Il Monasterio de San Francisco. Construction of the monastery began in 1512.

The building of the grand, three-domed edifice was completed in 1544, after a series of delays caused by politics and funding shortfalls. But that was hardly the end of the friars' troubles.

In 1586 the monastery was sacked and burned by Sir Francis Drake, who is referred to on all the Spanish-language web sites I have seen as "the English pirate."

Rebuilt, it was then damaged by an earthquake in 1673 and flattened by a severe one 1751.

The friars rebuilt again, only to be driven out by a force greater than earthquakes: secularism. The buildings were seized by the state in the 1880s and turned into an insane asylum.

In 1931 it was battered so badly by a hurricane that it was shuttered and never re-opened, slowly decaying into the splendid ruin of today.

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