Columbus Statue in Parque Colon, points the way to the first sighting of land in the New World. In 1492, Christopher Columbus convinced Queen Isabella of Spain, to sponsor his voyage. Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand were interested in the sanctity and the purity of the Catholic church. She became known as Isabella the Catholic. She took special interest in the Native Indians of the new lands and insisted they be treated fairly and justly. And thus began their induction in Catholicism. Welcome … to the Americas!
Built in la Capital, Santo Domingo, the Cathedral of Santa María la Menor is the oldest cathedral in the Americas. It was built between 1512 and 1540. This countries origins are steeped in the Catholic faith. The constitution of the Dominican Republic provides for freedom of religious worship. Like all other countries religion has evolved here. The early 1800’s saw the entry of protestants. Branches of other churches dot the landscape yet the country remains predominantly Catholic.
The cathedrals vaulted ceilings, honed and smoothed to perfection, are classic, and rival any European Cathedral. Standing in this church overwhelmed me. Built with quarried local limestone, it is a magnificent structure. As I took myself a step back in time, caressing the limestone I wondered to myself how many people have been here to worship, to be baptized, communionized, married, had their sins forgiven, and were laid to rest. I stand amazed that through all of this country’s history of political turmoil that the church still stands.
I confess to feeling very comfortable and at peace within this sacred ground. There’s something about the smell of the limestone, possibly from centuries of burned incense. I walk through and listen the the echo of my own breathing. It’s a quiet day in the church.
As I am wandering around peering into the alcoves and chambers, and by the side door I see a large stained glass window. As I approach to photograph, a well dressed elderly Dominican man possibly in his eighties, is viewing the window with his grandson at his side. I watch as he runs his fingers along the stone, turning direction to the lead and the glass. He is clearly overcome by emotion. His grandson tries to lead him away as he sees me with my camera. I silently motion him to stop. It’s ok, I’ll wait. I imagined the man’s thoughts and momentarily reflected on my own life. Where will I be, what will I be thinking when I reach those years. He turned and tipped his head in acknowledgement and thanks. After he left I took this photograph. Sorry, it’s not the best I’ve ever taken but I was engulfed in emotion. The single tear cascaded and I too became close and personal with the window. In the 30 degree heat of the day, it was amazingly cold to the touch and solid. I felt the true foundation of it’s depiction flow into me. I felt a little less … “lost.”
The builders, the artists, the artisans, and the subject of this achievement filled me. I am by no means a good Catholic, nor do I practice, but some things are better left without attempting to explain…
Listen to the palms…
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