MEMORABLE MONUMENTS OF SANTO DOMINGO

The fervor of the past by the church and convent of Regina.

by Doctor Manuel de Jesús Mañón Arredondo

Wrapped in the glorious veil of the Regina ex Convent.

Like all of our old colonial churches, this temple has a glorious past on the people and on the the neighborhood’s name: Regina’s neighborhood. It is gratefully remembered for the San Luis Gonzanga College, institute of the philanthropy and priest Francisco José Billini. Also, it was the south-west limit of the city, situated at the cross of Padre Billini’s street and Sánchez’s street. To it West everything was jungle, to the it East everything was city. This is how the writer César Nicolás Penson saw the Regina’s neighborhood in the past century.

Since those times until our days, the patrimonial valorization ha increased around the beautiful stories of the temple with the new document sources. The recent papers found magnify the idea and the value of it’s religious element and the social paper that the city had between the half and the end of the XVI century.

To know more of Regina Angelorum we’ll take as examples little notes that appeared at the Listín Diario, wich was a news paper of the time, with the motive of the comeback of a group of nuns from the Habana to Santo Domingo ,the 9th of january of 1820. This is the origin of the convent that then originated the foundation of their church under the QUEEN OF ANGELS (Regina Angelorum) advocation.

By the year 1556, Cristóbla Colorn y Toledo, Don Diego de Guzmán, Don Diego Caballero y Don Juan de Peña Fernández, asked the king’s permission to found the Regina Angelorum Nuns Convent, Permission that was conceded. It then was founded by the year 1562 on some houses left for that purpose along with some other goods left by Doña María de Arana, an old rich widow.

Next to the Convent the church was immediately builded. Solid, elegant and beautifully ornamented with valuable sculptures. The temple was dedicated by the nuns to Santa Catalina de Sena, founder of the Dominican Order. This temple was never rich. It was poor at the extreme, so much that in 1632 they had to be reduced from 80 to 50 nuns.

Sor Leonor de Ovando

From this historic monastery she was the Superior in 1582, and the first poet of Santo Domingo and America. Leonor de Ovando, of which five sonnets of true merit are conserved. in reference to this nun the eminent Spanish Menéndez y Pelayo said: "Santo Domingo had the glory that on its soil flourished the first poet in American literary history." The eminent Dominican historian Don Emiliano Tejera, thought it was not difficult that this remarkable poetize lived in 1586, and that she was one of those who had to flee the city when the invasion by Drake.

Such was the austerity and illustration of these nuns, that theie fame went beyond the seas. People came from Cuba and Puerto Rico and even further to profess this Convent. From it came the nuns who were to found and direct the Carmelite Convent of Puerto Rico in 1651, the were built there at the expense of the virtuous lady Doña Ana Cauzos. The the first nuns of the Convent of Regina Angelorum that went to Puerto Rico, were the Mothers of Valdelomar Luisa, Maria and Mary Otaño Gerónima of Ayala women of great virtue and knowledge, it being necessary to note here, that the first who took the habit there were Doña Ana, founder of Cauzos, his sister Doña Antonia de la Encarnacion and Maria Menéndez.. In November 1795, on the occasion of the transfer of the island to France by the Treaty of Basel, the nuns left their convent of Regina emigrating mostly to Cuba. Solitary and sad were the cells of that severe Monastery until 1805, in which were housed the Shipwrecked crew of a saved French squadron that were defeated on February 6 at Palenque. The were destroyed in a naval battle by an English squad. The officers of the lost ships changed the Regina’s temple into a theater, forming then a company of amateurs.

In 1818, the cloisters and part of the temple being in very poor condition were repaired and new factories were added in the annexes on behalf of the respectable ladies Dona Francisca Perpignan Clara Gonzalez Hernandez.

On January 9, 1820, returned to Havana, the nuns of Regina and Santa Clara. Of the former, only ten were Dominican, as the others had died during his painful absence. There, in her convent, full of years, there were leaving one by one, having gone down to the grave the last in 1846.

By occupying the Haitian the Dominican territory, they suppressed wages to the Canons, but the nuns were left with the $20 they had established in the Law. Dead the nuns the glorious monastery died.

Then cloisters and classrooms have been converted into schools, societies and finally in barracks. In 1855 the local government allocated the Ex-Convent for the establishment of a school for girls at the charge of Manuela Pelegrina Calero y Ricart. By then settled there only a small school without importance, but, then raised again by Ms. Calero instance the Government repaired the building and gave the $ 70 per month for 16 poor girls. In 1866, President Cabral gave the building to Francisco Javier Billini to establish his famous School of "San Luis Gonzaga" of glorious remembrance and in which so many illustrious Dominicans rose. There he built the courthouse lately.

It remains now to offer some notes on the church, nice building in which restoration and beautification took pains of Fr. Billini. This philanthropist priest was baptized in this church and he sang his first Mass and when later he was confident his chaplaincy, he made major repairs to their own devices and given back to the cult.

It has very beautiful artistically carved altars and his images are of great worth and value.

The temple of Regina Angelorum is solidly built. It has a beautiful dome, orange half full, with four skylights.

Its facade is deceptively simple. Divide the two bodies in the lower holds three Roman arches, in the middle the front door, in the top with two windows, one on each side and above each window, a holy head, two small central abutments occupy between which there is a recess, now empty, with two columns holding carved in relief on one face and this half oval. On the basis of this half oval, stands a bust of woman, crowned with laurels, above an eagle with its wings spread and either side bust sculptures. At the top stands a cross between two angels, the temple bell is right.

Among the valuable images possessed by this historic temple included a St. Catherine of Siena and St. Dominic image, brought expressly from Mexico in the eighteenth century, a Virgen del Socorro and Dolores, coming from Peru in 1717 and St. Lucia, which is the oldest of all, paid for by the first black Africans arrived in this island.

Under the sacred vaults of this temple lie the ashes of these precious revered and eminent citizens: Francisco Javier Billini Priest, Rector of the Church of Regina Angelorum and re-builder, Missionary Apostolic canon penitentiary, Founder of the College "San Luis Gonzago of the first House of Charity in 1867, the first orphanage in 1869.'s first Bedlam; Company's "Friend of the Poor" and discovered the remains of Christopher Columbus in the Cathedral of Santo Domingo on September 10, 1877, the of the heroes of the Dominican Restoration. General Manuel Rodriguez Objío, and Felix Maria Eusebio Manzueta Lluberes, also Independence heroes: those of Francisco X. Illustrious Amiama, notably those of the Dominican poet Arturo Pellerano Castro (Byron) , those of Maria Nicolasa Billini, famous educator of the Commander Gabriel Moreno of Christ, mentality and distinguished speaker, the General Pedro A. Lluberes, former Secretary of State and many other revered and glorious too.

*El Listin Diario 9 of January 1929 (anthologies columns)

summary documentation by:Dr. Luigi Baccichet Zambony