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Cathedral Square, Havana . Cuba

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  • San Ignacio y Empedrado, Old Havana
  • Destination: Havana
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The area where the Plaza de la Catedral is located used to be, according to 17th century records, a marshland renewed each year during the rainy season. At the place where the plaza was created, and due to its surface’s properties, the waters became stagnant, so that the place was known at the beginning as Plaza de la Ciénaga (Swamp Square). Nevertheless, around the middle of 16th century, the first requests by the neighbors to buy nearby lots were made, because during the dry season the stagnant waters disappeared and the living conditions improved.

In order to overcome the difficulties that the rainy season meant for communications with the city proper, in the year of 1577 the authorities projected the construction of a wooden bridge. Ten year later, Governor Gabriel Luján wrote to the king due to the widespread drought suggesting the creation of a pond to take advantage of some springs streaming out of the spot where today we find the crossing of San Ignacio Street and Callejón del Chorro.

In 1592 the engineer Juan Bautista Antonelli finished his work on the Zanja Real, the first aqueduct built by the Spanish in America. One of its branches reached to the Callejón del Chorro, next to the Plaza de la Catedral.

In spite of the distribution of the lots at the swamp, and as a request from the crown, the Plaza was not intended for sale or to build on. Until the beginning of the 18th century the square was used for the restocking of the metropolis navy and commercial fleet’s water supplies.

In 1727 the work on the church that would give this plaza a greater importance began. Eventually it came to be known as Plaza de la Catedral (Cathedral Square).

This is one of the most valuable historical sites in the city, especially for its majestic early 18th century houses. A good example of this kind of architecture is the house of the Captain General Luis Chacón, facing the Cathedral. To the west we find the house the former alderman Francisco F. Ponce de León, Third Marquis of Aguas Claras built; later on acquired by the counts of San Fernando de Peñalver. In front of the house of the Marquis of Aguas Claras there are two adjoining houses, one belonging to the Count of Lombillo (corner of Empedrado Street) and the other to the Marquis of Arcos, Royal Treasurer whose name was Diego Peñalver Angulo and who earned the title because of its services during the English siege and occupation. In 1825 the Post Office moved into this house.

All these domestic buildings have been preserved thanks to the mastery of its builders and the quality of the construction materials employed. Wide doors and windows, grilles and huge gates with thick pillars are usual elements in these houses.

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Cathedral Square is located in Havana

Capital of Cuba and the country's administrative, political, cultural and scientific center, it is also the capital of two provinces: City of Havana and Havana. Though only around 280 square miles (727 square kilometers) in size-0.65 percent of the archipelago's total area.

The Old Havana and system of forts led UNESCO to declare it a part of world heritage in 1982. Founded on its present site in 1519, the settlement of San Cristobal de La Habana prospered mainly due to its bay, which was a natural port of call for ships sailing to and from the New World. Starting in 1634, because of its strategic location, San Cristobal de La Habana was considered the key to the New World-as attested to by royal letters patent-and the main defense of the West Indies.

The Cuban capital consists of an immense number of buildings in a wide range of architectural styles, built in the course of nearly five centuries. These styles range from the pre-baroque to the baroque, neo-Gothic, neoclassical, eclectic, art noveau and art-deco, to the modern.

Alejo Carpentier, one of Cuba's most famous authors, called it "the city of columns" and focused attention on its streets, which he considered a perennially rich show of life, humanity and contrasts that was bound to entertain any observer.

Over 14 kilometers of excellent beaches lie to the east of the Cuban capital. To the south, a green belt contributes to a healthful atmosphere.

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Review about Squares: Cathedral Square
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cathedral square
The beautiful baroque buildings of this square, built in the 18th century, include the Catedral de la Habana, described as 'music set in stone' by Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier.

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Walking Old Havana
Old Havana has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982. The best way to explore it is to get a map & start walking. You'll get to see beautiful streets, squares & hidden courtyards. When you are tired of walking there are museums, galleries & cafes to visit. As you walk around you will see plenty of buildings in need of repair, but equally many streets & buildings that have been restored. Last but not least you'll get to meet some of the friendly locals. Read more:

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