Zona Colonial, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Old Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Panteon Nacional

©By Danny Aquino
Translation by Gerald Singer
Photos by Gerald Singer & Habiba Hussein

Panteon Nacional, Santo Domingo Dominican Republic

What is today the Panteon Nacional or National Mausoleum, was the last building constructed by the Spaniards in Santo Domingo. Built between 1714 and 1748, it originally served as a church consisting of a central nave and two lateral chapels.

Here the Jesuit Fathers gave mass with their backs turned to the congregation. They turned their backs to the congregation so that Jesus Christ would be in front of them and in this way all would face Jesus. The organ was in the back and the chorus sang from the balconies above.

Next to the Jesuit Church on the Calle de las Damas was a small plaza known as the Plazoleta de Maria de Toledo, which was used by the priests to talk and to pass the time before giving mass.

When the Jesuits were expelled for having allied themselves politically, the building passed through a succession of uses. It was used as a warehouse for tobacco, a theatre, a school and as headquarters for various governmental institutions.

In 1955, during the reign of the dictator, Trujillo, it was restored and declared the Panteon Nacional, a cemetery for national heroes. The chandelier that hangs from the ceiling is made of bronze and was a gift from General Francisco Franco the dictator of Spain to Trujillo.

Panteon Nacional, Santo Domingo Dominican Republic

Under the chandelier is the eternal flame that burns 24 hours a day.

Panteon Nacional, Santo Domingo Dominican Republic

Only one foreigner is interred in the Panteon Nacional, Eugenio Maria de Hostos, who fought for Puerto Rican independence without obtaining it and it was his dying wish to be buried in an independent nation.

In the Dominican Republic, he founded the first school for teachers.

On the ceiling of the Panteon Nacional is a mural by the Spanish artist, Rafael Pellicer, called "Ascensión a los Cielos" (Ascension to Heaven) and "El Juicio Final" (The final Judgment.)

Panteon Nacional, Santo Domingo Dominican Republic

Other heroes interred in the Panteon Nacional include, Concepcion Bona, the designer of the Dominican flag, Americo Lugo, the great Dominican historian, General Pedro Santana, our first constitutional president, the Admirals Juan Bautista Canbiaso and Juan Alejandro Acosta, founders of the Dominican Navy and Emilio Prud'homme and José Reyés who wrote the words and music for the Dominican National Anthem.

The 36 tombs that do not bear names are for future heroes and the one with no marking is for the Unknown Soldier.

Panteon Nacional, Santo Domingo Dominican Republic

At the entrance to the Panteon Nacional, an Honor Guard stands at attention remaining absolutely still.

The flags of the various branches of the Dominican Armed Forces fly within the Panteon Nacional: the Army, Navy, Air Force and National Police.

Panteon Nacional, Santo Domingo Dominican Republic

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