City of churches, hermitages and convents (+photos) – Escambray

The location of the successive Catholic temples conditioned the expansion from south to north of the fourth town of Cuba

The Parish tower marks the central point of the half-league circle that establishes the limit of the town’s ejidos. (Photos: Escambray Archives)

Photographed from all angles, the Catholic temples erected in Sancti Spíritus largely make up its urban landscape. Two of them – the Parroquial Mayor and the Church of La Caridad – remain open to worship, the Hermitage of Jesús Nazareno barely survives its thick walls and the archaeological site of the area it occupies, and only the Ermita de la Vera Cruz remains. the memory.

Historians agree that the Parish tower marks the central point of the half-league circle that establishes the limit of the town’s ejidos, which indicates its ancient location in this place.

The definitive formation of the area took place when in 1690 the Franciscans founded, to the north of the Parish, the Ermita de la Vera Cruz and its new plaza, which became Serafín Sánchez Park. Next to it, around 1716 they built the corresponding convent. Both buildings, the hermitage and the convent, were demolished at the beginning of the 20th century, when the civic plaza was expanded and the city center moved there.

According to the expert in heritage issues Alicia García Santana, the location of the Catholic temples also establishes the direction of urban growth in the direction, first, of the San Francisco convent square and, then, towards the Hermitage of La Caridad, founded around 1717 and defined as the second dedicated to the patron saint of Cuba on the island.

An important city square was built on one side of the hermitage.

About the Hermitage of Jesús de Nazareno, whose construction details are unknown, there was already news before 1689, as well as the presence in its vicinity of the Convent of Santo Domingo, of which there is no graphic testimony. Hit by a hurricane in 1816, the Hermitage of Jesus was left in ruins and the Santo Domingo hospice was eliminated. By order of Bishop Espada y Fernández de Landa, the temple was rebuilt, whose nave was oriented from north to south and a belfry-shaped bell tower was added.

The Hermitage of Jesús Nazareno marks the area of ​​greatest aboriginal settlement in the city.

For its part, the Parish Church is, without a doubt, the best preserved temple of primitive Cubans. In 1569, Bishop Juan del Castillo stated that the Sancti Spiritus church was “the richest on the entire Island.” In 1612, Brother Alonso Enríquez de Armendáriz ordered the reconstruction of the temple in masonry. In 1666, its repair was undertaken, a process during which its splendid knuckle-shaped truss roof and the octagonal presbytery, with its double quadrangles enhanced with projecting lacework, were added. In this Parish Church, with a single nave, the only wooden main arch that has survived to this day is preserved.

The Parroquial Mayor is one of the most photographed monuments in the history of Sancti Spíritus. (Photos: Escambray Archives)

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