Convento e Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Belén

CA4
Church / other
Architectural style: Baroque
CA Ranking: 4
Best for: The Real Observatorio (Royal Observatory), built in 1858 on top of the tower of the school
Open: 8am-6pm Mon-Fri
Admission: Free
Compostela e/ Luz y Acosta, Habana Vieja
  • Made up of a church, a convent and a peculiar vaulted arch, this religious complex is the most extensive of those surviving in Old Havana. After the arrival in Havana of the first members of the Order of Bethlehem, arrangements were made to build a convent for them with the collection of alms and the contribution of Bishop Diego Evelino de Compostela. The edifice was completed in 1718 and served as headquarters for this religious community until 1842 when the property was confiscated by the Spanish colonial government.

    The building was occupied by the vice-captain general and by an infantry battalion until 1854 when the Society of Jesus was re-established and the Jesuits took possession of the convent in compensation for the property that had been confiscated a century before. Historian Félix Arrate spoke with much respect of this church whose ground plan had the shape of a cross, domed ceiling, and stone statues and pictures of religious figures, home today of the Office for Humanitarian Affairs of the City Historian’s Office.

    The unusual vaulted arch, built in 1775 over Calle Acosta to the south, connects the convent with its neighbouring buildings. The original church is now restored and open for visits, but five of the six cloisters are under restoration as an old people’s home, a hostel and a junior high school.

    More extraordinary is the Real Observatorio (Royal Observatory), built in 1858 on top of the tower of the school, and used continuously until 1925. The Jesuits were Cuba’s first official weather forecasters and used the observatory for the study of hurricanes and other tropical weather patterns. The observatory was the first of its kind in the Caribbean and, over time, became one of the most important weather stations in the Americas. It is currently under restoration as the future Museo de Meteorología y Astronomía.

     

    
  • Plaza de Armas

    Plaza de Armas  LH 5+

    The early city was formally founded in 1519 on the northeast side of what would soon be laid out as Plaza de la Iglesia—named for the simple church that stood here until 1741, when it was destroyed fo …

    Necrópolis de Cristóbal Colón

    Necrópolis de Cristóbal Colón  LH 5+

    History & architecture Declared National Monument in 1987, this is the most important cemetery in Cuba and its 57 hectares (10 acres) makes it the largest in America. According to Enrique Martínez …

    Plaza de San Francisco

    Plaza de San Francisco  LH 5+

    Right across Havana harbor, Plaza de San Francisco is one of the first three built in the 16th century. It takes its name from the Franciscan convent built there. The plaza became the site of a market …

    Plaza de la Catedral

    Plaza de la Catedral  LH 5+

    The last of the main squares to be created, this is one of Old Havana’s most beautiful spots. Originally, it was named Plaza de la Ciénaga (Swamp Square) because of its muddy terrain, but by the 18th …

    The Malecón

    The Malecón  LH 5+

    The Malecón, first named Avenida del Golfo, is Cuba’s most famous sea-side avenue. The project was undertaken by Don Francisco de Albear, Cuba’s greatest engineer at the time. Albear came up with a co …

    Iglesia de Jesús de Miramar

    Iglesia de Jesús de Miramar  LH 5

    Opened in 1953, this is Cuba’s second largest church, which is visible for several blocks due to its vast dome built in Roman-Byzantine style. The Jesús de Miramar church boasts 14 large mural paintin …

    Catedral de La Habana

    Catedral de La Habana  LH 5+

    The entry of the Jesuits in Cuba was formally requested in 1656, and in 1727, a plot was granted for their school and church. Bishop Brother Gerónimo Valdés explained to the King of Spain that Havana’ …

    Museo de la Ciudad (Palacio de los Capitanes Generales)

    Museo de la Ciudad (Palacio de los Capitanes Generales)  LH 5

    History & architecture Considered the most important example of baroque architecture in the city, this grand building on the west side of the plaza was built in 1792, on the sight of the former pa …

    Iglesia de San Francisco de Paula

    Iglesia de San Francisco de Paula  LH 5

    In 1664 the Presbyter of the Cathedral of Havana, don Nicolás Estévez Borges, ordered the construction of a chapel devoted to Saint Francis of Paola (founder of the Roman Catholic Order of the Minims) …

    Edificio Bacardí

    Edificio Bacardí  LH 5

    The first and main exponent of art deco in the city belonged to Emilio Bacardí and was the home to his famous rum company. After winning the contest held by Bacardí, architects E. Rodríguez, R. Fernán …

    1 of 22 pages »