Santa Maria la Menor, with its ochre coral façade and its invaluable silver altar, was the first cathedral to be built in the New World. Its construction began in 1514 and ended in 1542, except for the bell tower which was never completed. It was first built out of clay and covered with palm thatch. The ground is made of brick and the furniture of solid mahogany. The main portal is ornamented with a huge door of 2 and half tons, dating from the time that it was originally built and restored to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Discovery of America. The style is Renaissance on the outside, but its vaults are Gothic. The cathedral presents a number of different styles as it was built over several periods and renovated many times following numerous earthquakes. It served as headquarters to the English pirate Sir Francis Drake , who looted Santo Domingo in 1586. Guides like to show the first chapel to the right of the altar where Francis Drake hung his hammock and cut the nose off a statue by mistake with the stroke of a sabre! The cathedral used to be the resting place of Christopher Columbus' whose remains were laid to rest within a marble mausoleum inside one of the 14 small side chapels (according to his wishes), until they were transferred to Seville in 1785...or was it was the Columbus lighthouse in 1992? (the two countries argue that they each hold the remains of the illustrious navigator!) The cathedral overlooks Plaza de Colon square (originally Plaza Mayor) in the middle of which stands the bronze and granite statue of Christopher Columbus, erected by Frenchman Gilbert in 1887. Particularly pleasant in the shade of the trees, it is lined with many cafés, art galleries and cigar shops and gives rise to El Conde, a long and lively street, with many shops.
Construction began in 1514 and was completed in 1542, with the exception of the bell tower, which was never completed. It was first built out of clay and covered with palm thatch.© iStockphoto.com / Holger Mette
The main portal features a huge 2-and-a-half-ton door that dates back to when the cathedral was originally built. It was most recently restored to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Discovery of America.© Office du Tourisme REPUBLIQUE DOMINICAINE
The cathedral was once the resting place of Christopher Columbus' remains, which were held within a marble mausoleum in one of the 14 small side chapels until they were transferred to Seville in 1785.© Felix Lipov / 123RF
The cathedral stands on the Plaza de Colon, in the middle of which stands the bronze and granite statue of Christopher Columbus erected in 1887 by French sculptor Ernesto Gilbert.© Carlos Rodrigues / EASYVOYAGE