By Irina Pino
HAVANA TIMES – I was shooting photos in Old Havana a while ago, and Espiritu Santo Church caught my eye, which is located at the corner of Cuba and Acosta streets.
I passed there quite regularly, but the doors were always closed. I was frustrated, intrigued, I wanted to see it. So I asked neighbors. They told me there were several opening hours.
I was finally able to go there in an afternoon. I was surprised by the sobriety of the enclosure, of the halls, separated by large arcades. This jewel of religious architecture features a combination of architectural styles, from Arabic to neoclassical architecture, with a Gothic overtone.
Searching for information, I read that several renovations were made during the 18th and 19th centuries, as there was only the main hall at first, and later indoor and outdoor areas were added.
It is the oldest church in colonial Havana. In 1638 Bishop Jeronimo Valdes ordered its construction over a very poor chapel that had been built by the free slaves for their saint: the divine Paraclete (Holy Spirit in Christian theology).
This same bishop pushed many public projects, including a house of charity in 1695, so that all those who took refuge there took the family name Valdes.
It was the second parish church of Villa San Cristobal de la Habana. In 1722, it became a refuge for those fleeing trouble with the law.
There are many interesting facts in the history of this church, there are original paintings by José Nicolas de la Escalera in its altars. Also, the large oil painting by Aristides Hernandez, The integer of Cristo.
It also has burial crypts, and Bishop Jeronimo Valdes himself rests in one of them.
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