Churches and Convents
One of the first monastic orders that arrived in Cuba was that of the Franciscans. Around 1570 they were already the protégées of one of the first notables of the town who, at the time of his decease, donated all his possessions with the aim of building a monastery for the order by the harbor of Havana. In 1574 alms began to be collected for the construction. In 1575 the building license was requested of the king and of the Royal Court of Santo Domingo. Finally, by 1584 the work was already advanced, so that we conclude that it was finished before the century was over.
After the Parroquial Mayor, Havana had a second temple: the one of the Espíritu Santo (Holy Spirit). This church is the oldest still standing. Its construction dates back to June, 1632. It was small and poor. Free blacks, already numerous, devoted it to the Holy Spirit in 1638.
Before the Iglesia del Cristo was erected in 1640, a hermitage devoted to Nuestra Señora del Buen Viaje stood near this site in the 16th century. This hermitage was also known as The Calvary and was where the Stations of the Cross processions, which were taken on by the new church, ended. On Good Fridays the processions left from the Convento de San Francisco de Asís and ended at the Iglesia del Cristo.
Under the influence of the Bishop Juan de las Cabezas, elected in 1602, the creation of a convent for the hermit religious order of Saint Augustine, under the auspices of Our Lady of The Candlemas, was promoted. By 1633 the works on the convent were already advanced, and by 1660 alms money was used to decorate the church and the convent.
In order to create a hospital for convalescents, once more the Bishop Diego Avelino de Compostela donated his own orchard in San Diego and a part of his wealth to be used, along with the alms collected for such a charitable deed, on the construction of this convent, finished in 1718.
The Iglesia de la Catedral (Cathedral Church) is the result of a turbulent long historical process that started on the first half of the 17th century. As early as 1658 the license to build a college and its church was requested from the king, because the inhabitants of Havana were in need of a higher education institution, since they couldn’t always go to Mexico or Spain. After some disagreements among the town council, the Society of Jesus –that would be in charge of running the institution– and the king himself, the last, in April, 1727 ordered the Society’s headquarters to be built on the well known spot of San Ignacio.
On the same spot where the Ermita del Calvario was first located, the Women´s Hospital of Saint Francis of Paula was built about 1667, as the last will of the priest Nicolás Estévez Borges, who donated all his possessions to the construction. Besides the hospital a church was also built.
It lies on one of the few and modest hills of the city, at first called Peña Pobre and then Loma del Ángel. The church was made by the Bishop Diego Avelino de Compostela. In the year of 1630 it was promoted to accesory parish.
Since 1638 several setbacks conspired against this convent being built, but finally, with help from the King Fernando VI its construction began in 1755
This was the last of the convents established in Havana in the 18th century. Its founders were the Doctor of Medicine Francisco Moreno and his wife Ana Ladino. Both devoted great amounts of money from their personal wealth to the construction of the convent and the church.