San Francisco of Paula Church

San Francisco of Paula Church
San Francisco of Paula Church

The ancient San Francisco of Paula Church is now a prestigious concert hall dedicated to ancient music

The building dates from 1668, when a hospital began to be built for women and a hermitage under the invocation of the patriarch of the San Francisco de Paula Minimum, supported by the wealth of the priest and dean of the cathedral of Santiago de Cuba, Nicolas Estevez Borges then Benefited Rector of the Mayor Parish of Havana, who in 1664 ordered in a will the foundation of both places. The final date of the work is not known with certainty, but the chapel would bury the city inhabitants.
Both the hospital and the chapel, probably built with walls and ceilings, were buffeted by a hurricane in 1730 so both were completely destroyed. Then they were rebuilt following the baroque style with the contributions of the residents of the village and some alms of the faithful. These works were completed between 1735 and 1745. Thus, the chapel was replaced in 1746 by the current aspect that has today the church.
In 1907, the Havana Central Railroad, former railway company, conducted a expropriation of the church and the hospital with the aim of turning them into commercial deposit and began demolition attempts by considering the property devoid of assets. Fernando Roig and Emilio Ortiz, along with major companies and institutions the country, protested against these plans and in 1944 the church was declared a National Monument, but not the hospital, which already by the time was only ruins. After bitter controversies, the hospital was demolished in 1946 and a part of the church to carry out resuscitation of Avenida del Puerto (Port Avenue). Precisely in the part that was saved it stands an octagonal dome and its façade with ornamental details.
In 1951 Odilio Urfe turned it into headquarters Musical Folklore Research Institute. In 1962, the institution changed its name to Popular Music Seminar and in 1988 it moved to a new building in Vedado. Then occupied the church was occupied by the Music Center until 1996, when ceased cultural performances, after years of neglect, to give pass to the restoration of the Office of the Historian of Havana, which were culminated in 2000 with the opening of a concert hall.

Characteristics of San Francisco de Paula Church

The facade of the Church of San Francisco de Paula is similar to the Convent of St. Francis of Assisi, a building was also erected in the eighteenth century. This schematic of forms is due to the coarseness of the stones used in the construction, which could not stand much transformation. The Church of San Francisco de Paula is a representative example of Cuban Baroque of the first half of the eighteenth century. It consists of a plant in Latin cross area with barrel vault and dome. Attest to the Spanish influence in the two niches interspersed columns attached to the front and placed on either side of a central arch. The front is crowned by a belfry with its bells which are not preserved.
Several times the Church had to adapt its facilities to the new functions acquired. These transformations were hydraulic, electrical and gas facilities that have been found during excavations and slabs of black and white marble floor and stained glass that last until today. Also during the decade of 1946-1956, in which these works, the building was devoid of the places where the sacristy and the altar because of deterioration they suffered.
As altarpiece, the church has one of the most beautiful stained glass windows that adorn the historic center of the Havana City. In 2000 it was reborn as a concert hall dedicated to early music, and exhibition space for valuable works of renowned Cuban contemporary artists.
Today it hosts presentations of excellent ancient music ensemble as Ars Longa, which together with the Office of the Historian of Havana City, regularly organizes the International Esteban Salas Ancient Music Festival, which ratifies the capital of Cuba as square connoted for that staff in the region.

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