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Dominican Republic: Hospital San Nicolás de Bari

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Hospital San Nicolás de Bari | Dominican Republic | Americas

[Visited: June 2007]

When the Spaniards landed on Hispaniola (Little Spain), as they called the island, they started to build the provisions as they were used to. In 1504, Fray Nicolás de Ovando, governor at the time, ordered the construction of a health centre, and it would serve as such until the mid 18th century. It actually had a double function: it also served as a church, and was probably the first stone church in the New World. According to reports, the central nave of the Hospital San Nicolás de Bari, which cross shape is still visible, was used for religious purposes, while the lateral naves and the area behind the transept was used for care of patients.

Picture of Hospital San Nicolás de Bari (Dominican Republic): Hospital San Nicolás de Bari: ruins right in the middle of the Dominican capital

The building was so strong, it withstood centuries of attacks of pirates as well as earthquakes, only to be severely damaged in 1911 by a hurricane. The building was damaged so badly, it was considered a risk for passers-by, and the demolition was ordered. Right now, we were very surprised to see the impressive ruins of the Hospital San Nicolás de Bari completely unprotected, with a parking lot on one side, and a church on the other. It almost felt wrong to just walk in, but this is the way to enter: you just walk past the cars in the lot, and as you go through an arch, you are "in" - if it were not for the fact that the arch is not attached to any wall.

Picture of Hospital San Nicolás de Bari (Dominican Republic): Arches and columns are all that remains of the Hospital San Nicolás de Bari

Already here, there were many pigeons around. As we explored the ruins, of which not much remains but a few high walls, some beautiful arches and columns, we had to be careful with the pigeons: they were everywhere, flying over our heads while only narrowly missing them. Upon closer inspection, the walls were pockmarked with holes gladly used by the pigeons for a small home. They especially liked the central area, with only wooden beams instead of the ceiling - causing light falling nicely on the walls. But how much nicer these ruins could be! Clean the ruins, do some restoration, add protection, ask an entrance fee, and it could well be one of the main attractions of the city. Right now, though, it certainly has an altogether special charm for the passer-by who happens to tumble upon the ruins of the Hospital San Nicolás de Bari.

Picture of Hospital San Nicolás de Bari (Dominican Republic): Light coming through what used to be the ceiling
Picture of Hospital San Nicolás de Bari (Dominican Republic): Detail of a wall of the ruins of the Hospital San Nicolás de Bari
Picture of Hospital San Nicolás de Bari (Dominican Republic): Arches of the ruins of the Hospital San Nicolás de Bari
Picture of Hospital San Nicolás de Bari (Dominican Republic): Ruins of the Hospital San Nicolás de Bari: column and arches
Picture of Hospital San Nicolás de Bari (Dominican Republic): View of the ruins of Hospital San Nicolás de Bari seen from the street

Around the World in 80 Clicks

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