Iglesia de la Catedral (Cathedral Church)
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.
In 1749 the Jesuits began to enlarge the temple and had almost finished the church when they were thrown off the Spanish possessions, so that the works were left unfinished. In 1777 the church was roofed and the Parroquial Mayor seat moved there due to the ruinous state in which its former seat at the Plaza de Armas was. In 1793 after the island was divided in dioceses, the church was made into a cathedral and the first bishop of Havana, José Felipe Tres Palacios, endowed the church with riches according to its new station. We owe this bishop the church’s façade we see today, with its peculiar uneven towers made by the architect Pedro Medina.
Afterwards, during the bishopric of Espada, who was an enlightened man, lots of alterations were made to the building. The bishop dispensed with the shrines and saints statues that he considered lacked taste and changed the old baroque shrines for new neoclassic ones. Espada sent for the Italian painter Giusseppe Perovani who worked on two of the frescos still remaining. When the painter passed away he was replaced in 1815 by the great French painter Jean B. Vermay.
In 1796 the remains of the Admiral Cristóbal Colón were moved to the cathedral church from the island of Santo Domingo where they rested as the Genovese sailor had wished. This was their resting place until December 12, 1898, when as the Spanish domination over Cuba ended they were taken to Spain.
Address: San Ignacio y Empedrado