After Christopher Columbus's arrival on the island in 1492, Santo Domingo became the site of the first cathedral, hospital, customs house and university in the Americas. This colonial town, founded in 1498, was laid out on a grid pattern that became the model for almost all town planners in the New World.
First permanent establishment of the New World and capital of the West Indies, the Colonial City of Santo Domingo – the only one of the 15th century in the Americas – was the place of departure for the spread of European culture and the conquest of the continent. From its port conquerors such as Ponce de Leon, Juan de Esquivel, Herman Cortes, Vasco Núñez de Balboa, Alonso de Ojeda and many others departed in search of new lands.
Located at the mouth of the Ozama, on the south coast of Hispaniola Island, the Colonial City of Santo Domingo is the core from which Santo Domingo de Guzman, capital of the Dominican Republic, was founded. Originally established on the east side of the Ozama in 1496, it was founded by Bartholomew Columbus in 1498, by order of the Catholic kings.
In 1502, the Governor Nicolas de Ovando transferred its institutions to the west bank and decided to provide the city with a grid pattern from the Grand Place (Plaza Mayor). This checkerboard layout later became a reference for almost all the town planners of the New World.
City of Firsts
Santo Domngo was the headquarters for the first institutions in the Americas: Saint Mary of the Incarnation Cathedral, Saint Francois Monastery, Saint Thomas Aquinas University, Nicholas de Bari Hospital, and the Casa de Contratación. It is also the first fortified city (fortress of Santo Domingo and its Torre del Homenaje) and the first headquarters of Spanish power in the New World.
Over an area of 106 ha, bordered by walls, bastions and forts, the inscribed site comprises 32 streets that crisscross the 116 blocks, constructions of one or two levels with stone, brick or earthen walls. Its original plan, the scale of its streets and its buildings are almost totally intact; it is the only living urban center that retains its characteristics of the 15th century. With its monumental heritage ensemble and its Gothic buildings unique in this region of the continent, the Colonial City of Santo Domingo maintains in essence the structure, use and functions that have characterized the first constructions at the time of its foundation, preserving its integrity and authenticity.
City of Encounters
It is here where for the first time native, European and African cultures crossed and where multicultural understanding was developed in total synchronization of knowledge, language, belief and experiences. Also, it is the Colonial City of Santo Domingo where the Dominican monk, Brother Antonio Montesino launched his appeal for the natural right of the natives, marking the beginning of the combat for the fundamental rights of mankind.