Busto de Colón en el Templete
Bust of Columbus in the Templete
The Templete, Columbus Memorial Chapel. Description by Héctor Juárez Figueredo, translated by Marcos Iglesias.
Typology: Monumental assembly.
Ceiba tree: The oldest reference (and graphical!) is in a blue print dated
1691. The present-day was planted on May 19, 1960.
"Cagigal" column: Shell stone.
Erected: 1754; the chain around the monument was renovated in 1928.
Sculpture at the top: Virgin of El Pilar, of date and make undefined; the
original dates to 1754 and another of 1827 were lost. (The virgin del Pilar
is called that way because it was "on a pillar" during the French invasion
Origin of the name: After its originator, field marshal Francisco Caxigal de
la Vega, then governor and Captain General of Cuba.
Constructor: Colonel Antonio Maria de la Torre y Cardenas.
Inaugurated: March 19 1828; the current door and grille were made in 1851,
when the space of El Templete was reduced because of the extension towards
the pier at O'Reilly street.
Inaugurated: March 19, 1828
Location: Originally East of the Cagigal Column; today in front of it.
Symbolism: Determination of the area about which, according to tradition,
originally occupied the Square of Arms and village of San Christopher of
Havana when it was established there, towards 1519, at the then Port of
On the back of the postcard illustrated here is written: "The Templete, opened to the public once a year. The first Mass after the Landing of Columbus, in 1517, was said here under the Ceiba Tree."
Marcos A. Iglesias wrote me on 30 December 2001 that this is not correct: " Your information about the first mass in that place is somewhat confusing. You indicate that the first mass, after Columbus' discovery of Cuba, was held there. This is not correct. First, Columbus was never in Havana. Havana was founded in 1517 by Diego de Velazquez as the last of the
villages that he founded (first was Baracoa, then Bayamo and Santiago -de Cuba- later on Trinidad, Sancti-Spiritus and Remedios and finally Havana.) Since Columbus did not have any priest on board during the discovery of
Cuba, no mass was celebrated during the discovery. Cuba was basically ignored by Spain, but during the second voyage to America Columbus did explore the South shores of Cuba and he had some priests, therefore there is an assumption that some mass was held during this visit. Then Diego de Velasquez formally started the colonization of Cuba, probably in 1511 -some discrepancy about the year that could have been 1512). Therefore, there is no doubt that at least at the time there was some mass. He then sent some expeditions to explore Cuba, in one of them Las Casas participated, again
with some mass during the explorations before they reached Havana."
Tourist information on the page of Virtual Tourist Com El Templete A charming copy of a Doric temple sits on the square`s northeast corner. It was built in the early 19th century on the site where the first mass and town council meeting were held in 1519, beside a massive ceiba tree. The original ceiba was felled by a hurricane in 1828 and replaced by a column fronted by a small bust of Christopher Columbus. The tree has since been replanted and today still shades the tiny temple, which wears a great cloak of bougainvillea. Its interior, with black and white checkerboard marble floor, is dominated by triptych wall-to-ceiling paintings depicting the first Mass, the first town council meeting, and the inauguration of the Templete. In the center of the room is a bust of the artist, Jean Baptiste Ver May, whose ashes (along with those of his wife, who also died--along with 8,000 other citizens--in the cholera epidemic of 1833) are contained in a marble urn next to the bust.
This monument on postcards
This monument on stamps
Sources & Information
Location (N 23°8'25" - W 82°20'56")
Item Code: cu010;
Added: 21 May 2006
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