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Emblem of faith, history and culture
Displaying its colonial architecture and the most elegant gifts of a century-old construction, the Cathedral of San Cristobel de la Habana, located on Empedrado Street, is an emblematic site of the city. It is the holy refuge of the Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception of Havana and the most representative church in the Cuban capital. Its baroque style and the urban landscape that complement it, make this place a place of great interest for the thousands of tourists who incorporate it every year on their walks.
Its construction began in 1749 by the Order of the Jesuits. Inside there is an exquisite collection of sacred art and a valuable religious heritage of the time. The façade was kept as it was conceived in its initial architecture, preserving the magical contrasts of light and shadow according to the height, the inclination, the time of day and the perception of the observer. Its beauty has been immortalized in the work of famous Cuban writers. Alejo Carpentier to say of its facade wrote that it was “music turned into stone”, while José Lezama Lima, affirmed that “with its curves, it mimicked the ocean waves”.
Its two side towers with bell towers display three naves and eight chapels, divided by thick pillars. The temple forms a rectangle 34 meters wide by 36 long. The floor is made of black and white marble, which replaces the waste that initially covered it. The original ceiling was changed to a vaulted stone one to capture greater lighting, ventilation, security and beauty, reaching its greatest splendor from that moment.
According to the experts, the concavity of the façade wall sculpted in bare stone, the columns arranged at an angle, the degree to which they display the inscription and the intersection of architectural elements, and the daring curvature of its lines, elevate it like the more radical works of the baroque.
Penetrating its interior constitutes a reserved appointment to admire art from a unique expression. Around the main altar, there are three works by the Italian painter José (Giuseppe) Perovani, among which La Asunción and the canvas of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, Patron Saint of the Cathedral, stand out. Perovani was also the author of the canvas of the orange chapel (ceiling color) of the Virgin of Loreto, blessed by Bishop Morell de Santa Cruz in 1755. Likewise, on the altar you can see sculptures and goldsmith works made in Rome during the first half of the 19th century. The walls proudly display oil paintings by Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Vermay, founder and first director of the Academy of Painting and Drawing of Saint Alexander.
From the 18th century, the canons’ choir stalls, the sacristy furniture and the severed original carving of San Cristobel are preserved. Further, inland, there are several tombs of bishops and famous people of the city and the Island.
Its impressive beauty and its majesty would not be possible without the ideal complement of its Plaza. A place that went unnoticed until the new temple served as a bulwark in religion and society. It assumed the name of the Cathedral Plaza, became one of the most elegant, and refined spaces, where aristocratic walks and lavish parties took place. The successive construction of renowned colonial buildings in its surroundings, such as the Lombillo Palace, the Arcos Marquis Palace, the House of the Counts of Bayona House, today the Colonial Art Museum, and the Aguas Claras Marquis Mansion, allowed the area would come to life and importance.
One of the most representative and visited places in the city, frequented by tourists and natives who adorn each space with their walk to enjoy an encounter with history, art and religion.