By Irina Pino
HAVANA TIMES – I was doing some photo features in Old Havana a while back, and the Espiritu Santo Church caught my attention, which is located on the corner of Cuba and Acosta Streets.
I used to pass by it quite regularly, but the doors were always closed. I was frustrated, intrigued, I wanted to see it. So, I asked some neighbors. They told me that it had several opening hours.
I was finally able to go in one afternoon. I was surprised by the sobriety of the enclosure, halls, separated by large arches. This jewel of religious architecture shows off a combination of architectural styles, from Arabic to Neoclassical architecture, with a Gothic overtone.
Searching for information, I read that several renovations were made during the 18th and 19th centuries, as it only had the main hall in the beginning, and later interior and exterior spaces were added.
It’s the oldest church in colonial Havana. In 1638, bishop Jeronimo Valdes ordered it to be built over a very poor chapel that had been built by the free slaves for their saint: the divine Paraclete (Holy Spirit in Christian theology).
This very same bishop pushed forward many public projects, including a charity home in 1695, so everyone that took shelter there took on the surname Valdes.
It was the second parochial church in Villa San Cristobal de la Habana. In 1722, it became a refuge for those fleeing problems with the Law.
There are many interesting facts in the history of this church, there are original paintings by Jose Nicolas de la Escalera in its altars. Also, the great oil painting by Aristides Hernandez, El entierro de Cristo.
It also has burial crypts, and bishop Jeronimo Valdes himself rests in one of them.