Columbus Lighthouse in the Dominican Republic

Columbus Lighthouse is the most expensive long-term construction project in the Dominican Republic

Columbus Lighthouse is one of the most notable sights in the Dominican Republic. It is located in the city of Santo Domingo. The construction of the lighthouse lasted 6 years, about 70 million dollars from the treasury. Why is it so interesting for tourists? First of all, its appearance – it is not a graceful, high tower, which is associated with the lighthouse, and monumental building, built in the shape of a Christian cross, with a museum and a mausoleum, where the remains of the famous explorer and seafarer Christopher Columbus rest.

View of Columbus Lighthouse

Photo: Columbus Lighthouse

General information about the Columbus lighthouse

An imposing structure built of light marble on a hill in the eastern part of Santo Domingo, only a person with an excellent imagination can imagine a lighthouse. In fact, the Lighthouse is designed in the shape of a cross and it is difficult to say that the building looks aesthetically pleasing, but that it is truly mesmerizing. For the construction, white marble was chosen, symbolizing the light, purity of the Christian faith.

Interesting fact! According to the plan of the Swedish architect, 157 spotlights were installed on the roof, which at night projected a cross in the sky.

There are marble slabs on the walls of the memorial complex, on which the sayings of Columbus himself and other prominent people are inscribed. A beautiful garden has been laid out around the Lighthouse, where you can walk, relax, and take a close look at the building from the outside.

The square near Columbus Lighthouse

The Columbus Lighthouse building in the Dominican Republic is slightly intimidating in its scale and style. It is a huge concrete structure that resembles Soviet radar stations. Many, of course, are perplexed – why was the Dominican Republic chosen to build the Columbus mausoleum? There is an interesting story behind it.

A historical excursion.

Christopher Columbus made four expeditions, which, however, did not make him rich and famous in his lifetime. In the spring of 1506 Columbus died in Seville, before his death bequeathed that his body was buried on the continent he had discovered. Then the will of the navigator was not carried out, but after a while the lands of the New World began to bring the Spanish conquistadors a lot of gold and silver, their importance was gradually strengthened and because of this the name of Christopher Columbus was remembered again. In the mid-16th century, the Spanish emperor decided to transport Columbus’s remains to Haiti, formerly known as Española. However, French conquerors forced the Spaniards to change the place of the traveler’s burial again – his ashes were moved to Cuba. When Spain lost the island, the navigator’s ashes returned to the Dominican Republic and rested in the shrine of Santo Domingo.

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An image of Christopher Columbus

Some documents have a version that the remains of the traveler returned to Seville, but studies have shown that the ashes belong to a man of frail build of 45 years, and Columbus was strong, tall and lived to 54 years. In addition, in the temple of Santo Domingo was found in an urn with ashes, on which the inscription – Christopher Columbus. The results of the examination carried out in Seville confirm the high probability that the remains really belong to the navigator.

When the identification of the ashes was finished, the city authorities announced a competition for the design of the Columbus memorial, in which more than 450 architects from 50 countries participated. Among the participants was a specialist from the Soviet Union. The winner was an architect from Scotland; his idea for the Columbus Lighthouse was a huge concrete structure. Construction took a long time, with intervals, because there was often no money. The solemn opening of the memorial was held in 1992 (500 years since the discovery of America). By the way, the Dominican Republic has received a loan for the construction of the monument from the United States, but history is silent. According to one version – the planes carrying the currency mysteriously disappeared. In any case, not much of the money was spent on the construction of the Columbus Lighthouse.

View of the Christopher Columbus Lighthouse

Architecture, what to see inside the building

From certain angles, the Columbus Lighthouse in the Dominican Republic looks like the pyramids built by the Native American Indians, but when viewed from above, the landmark is a cross. The fact is that the sails on the ships of the first expedition were decorated with crosses, and according to the Catholic Church, the Spanish navigator brought the Christian religion to the New World.

An interesting fact! On the day of the inauguration, the sarcophagus with the ashes of the traveler was carried through the city, and Pope John Paul II took part in the ceremony.

Dimensions of the landmark in the Dominican Republic:

  • height – 33 m;
  • length – 310 m;
  • width – 44 m.

The structure is called a lighthouse because there are 157 powerful floodlights on the roof, directed to the sky. When they are turned on, a cross can be seen in the dark sky. Locals say the pillar of light can be seen from Puerto Rico, which is 400 kilometers away. Unfortunately, the floodlights are not always on because the cost of electricity is too high.

Floodlights on the lighthouse

Of course, the main room of the Columbus Lighthouse is the mausoleum, where the sarcophagus with the remains of the navigator. There are always guardsmen standing guard near the entrance.

Interesting fact! There are many graves where Christopher Columbus is buried – in Genoa, Seville, but, of course, residents of the Dominican Republic are sure – the place of burial of the traveler is in Santo Domingo.

You can also dedicate a museum dedicated to the traveler’s expeditions, the exploration of the New World and the construction of the architectural complex. Several rooms tell the history of the friendly countries that donated money for the construction.

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The museum’s collection is diverse and interesting. There are artifacts and authentic documents about Columbus’ voyages and discoveries. It traces the influence of Spanish and European culture on the natives not only of the Dominican Republic, but also of the entire Caribbean basin. In addition, the museum has an archive and library and a chapel where services are held, but not on a regular basis, only on special religious holidays.

Lighthouse interior

  1. Location of the Columbus Lighthouse in the Dominican Republic: Av. Ana, Santo Domingo, 11604.
  2. Opening hours: Daily except Mondays from 9:00 to 17:00.
  3. Tickets cost 100 pesos or just over $5 dollars.

Interesting facts and useful tips

Three Eyes Cave

  1. Many tourists note that the Columbus Lighthouse is more striking for its monumentality than luxury, for a tour of the mausoleum and the museum collection is enough for 30-40 minutes.
  2. One of the interesting exhibits is the Mayan scroll – the document is considered the most preserved in the world.
  3. The landmark is located on the outskirts of Santo Domingo, in an area where it is dangerous for tourists to walk. The police recommend traveling only in a car – a cab or a rented car.
  4. If you decide to get to the Columbus Lighthouse on your own, focus on the Mirado Del Este Park, and also nearby is the picturesque Three Eyes Cave, which you can visit after seeing the museum and mausoleum.
  5. Tourists who have been to the Columbus Lighthouse in the Dominican Republic first of all recommend visiting the halls, where there are exhibits from the countries where the traveler visited. There are ship models, Columbus’ personal correspondence, sailors’ clothing, weapons, and jewelry.
  6. During daylight hours you can climb to the observation deck, which offers a beautiful view of Santo Domingo.
  7. Since it is a luxury for the Dominican Republic to turn on all 157 spotlights every day, the authorities decided to turn on the lights twice a year – on October 12, when Columbus discovered America, and on New Year’s Eve at midnight.

The Columbus Lighthouse can safely be called the most controversial monument in the Dominican Republic. Many call the structure a dubious work of art, but one thing is certain – the monumental building, which stands out from the big picture, will not leave anyone indifferent.

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A bird’s-eye view of Columbus Lighthouse:

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Columbus Lighthouse

Columbus Lighthouse

The Columbus Lighthouse is a monument in Santo Domingo honoring the great Spanish navigator who discovered the American continent for Europeans. Columbus Lighthouse, built in the shape of a cross, towers over the eastern tip of Santo Domingo.

The remains of Christopher Columbus were discovered there, so the lighthouse serves as both a mausoleum and a museum. The lighthouse was designed back in 1931 by Scottish architect Joseph Gleave and was built during the reign of President Joaquin Balaguer to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival on the island. Native artifacts from across the Americas are on display in the various halls of the lighthouse.

Construction of the lighthouse began in 1986, though the idea for the monument itself dates back to 1852 by Dominican historian Antonio Delmonte Tejada. In 1506 the explorer Christopher Columbus died in Spain at the age of 55. But death was not the end of his adventures, for his body continued to travel. After his death, Columbus was buried in Valladolid, then his body was transported to Seville. Columbus’ son, Diego, went to the Dominican Republic to build a cathedral for his father there. Diego died in 1526 and was buried next to his father. Sixteen years later the cathedral was completed and the remains were moved there.

Columbus Lighthouse

A competition was organized for the design and construction of the lighthouse, in which 455 architects from 48 countries participated. In 1931, a competition was held, which was won by an architect from Scotland. He proposed the design of a cross-shaped memorial complex. The premise was that the monument should represent a cross on one side and a Mayan pyramid on the other. Thus, the result was a colossal, highly original monument, consisting of 251 lanterns and measuring 2.6 square kilometers. The giant Columbus lighthouse structure dedicated to the admiral had been under construction since 1852, when historian Antonio Del Monte y Tejada expressed an interest in creating a monument in honor of Columbus in one of his works. Work began in 1986 and ended in 1992. The final cost was about $70 million.

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In 2003, DNA testing was done on the remains and they were compared to the remains of Columbus’ brother and son. The results are still inconclusive.

At the main entrance you can see the flags of different countries, which symbolize the brotherhood of nations. Inside you can visit different halls with various permanent exhibitions of collections from countries such as Spain and various Latin American countries, temporary exhibitions, conference rooms, an archaeological museum, a ceramic and iconographic museum, a library and much more. The main attraction of the lighthouse is the monument, mausoleum and chapel of Christopher Columbus.

The length of the reinforced concrete monument is 210 meters and its height is 59 meters. From the side the building looks like a pyramid in the spirit of the Indian tribes. The cruciform shape (in the top view) symbolizes the Christianization of America. Inside the monument are believed to contain the remains of Columbus, so the lighthouse additionally serves as a mausoleum.

The walls of the Columbus Lighthouse also house a small museum with a permanent display of items brought from all over the Americas (Colombian jewelry, boats from Cuba) as well as from countries that provided financial assistance in the construction of the monument.

Columbus Lighthouse

Lighthouse at night

There are 157 powerful floodlights on the roof of the Columbus Lighthouse, their beams of light form the shape of a cross. The light pole is so strong that at night it is visible from neighboring Puerto Rico.

It is popularly rumored that when the light installation in the monument, which projects the shape of a Christian cross into the sky, is turned on, the electricity in other parts of the city and surrounding villages is cut off.

When they turn on the Columbus Lighthouse in Santo Domingo

The Dominican authorities cannot afford to turn on all 157 spotlights of the lighthouse every day because it is very expensive. So they have decided that the lighthouse will be turned on only on major holidays.

Currently, it happens twice a year – on October 12 (the day Columbus discovered America) and on New Year’s Day.

Columbus Lighthouse

Attractions Nearby

Santo Domingo is one of the oldest cities in the Dominican Republic. Its central part of Santo Domingo was built in the 16th century, so it is dominated by monuments from the colonial era.

Columbus Palace is located above the Osama River. It was built in 1514 by order of Diego Columbus, son of Christopher Columbus. The palace is made up of pieces of coral reef, not a single nail was used in its construction. There are 22 rooms in the palace, in which a unique collection of original objects of that epoch is collected: ancient manuscripts, portraits of the owners, pieces of furniture and interiors.

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The fortress of Osama is the first fortress of the New World, built between 1502 and 1507. In the courtyard of the fortress stands the Torre del Omenaje, where rebellious Indians were held captive and where prisoners were sent. Here you can also see the tower, the ruins of the fortress wall, the old arsenal and the house of the influential Dominican Rodrigo de Bastidas, which adjoins the fortress.

A monument to Christopher Columbus is erected in Santo Domingo in front of the Cathedral in the central square in the city’s historic district on the west bank of the Osama River. The sculpture is made of bronze and depicts the famous navigator, traveler, and discoverer of the Americas, pointing with his left hand into the distance.

The Cathedral of Santo Domingo is the oldest cathedral made of golden-colored limestone. The style of the cathedral combines Gothic and Baroque, with strong Plateresque influences that are especially evident in the decoration of the altar. Among the cathedral’s treasures is a collection of carved wooden statues, furniture, jewelry and silverware.

Three Eyes Nature Park is located near the capital. Here you can visit the zoo, aquarium, caves with stalactites and stalagmites, grottoes, three sulfide lakes with dark blue water, after which the park was named.

Ladies’ Street was built in 1502. Today it is the oldest street, which is included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There are many old historic and architectural landmarks on Dam Street.

Columbus Lighthouse on google panoramas of Santo Domingo

How to get to Columbus Lighthouse

The Columbus Lighthouse is located in the eastern part of Santo Domingo, inside the huge Mirador del Este Park, about 1.8 kilometers in a straight line from the center of the old colonial area.

To get to the monument, you can either take an organized tour as part of a bus tour or get there on your own, preferably by cab, guagua or motorcycle cab. Theoretically, you can also walk to the lighthouse from the central tourist area “Zona Colonial”.

Buses stop quite far from the landmark, but you can take them if you wish. The closest stops to the lighthouse are “Av. Mirador Del Este Proximo Av. Jacinto De Los Santos” by buses number C10C11, C10D, C10S, “Av. Las Americas Despues C/ Masoneria” by bus number C2C1, C2C1S, C2C1SD.

You can also use cab services in Santo Domingo: Santo Domingo Taxi, Apolo Taxi, Aero Taxi, Taxi Express, Taxi Anacaona, Son Taxi, Tropical Taxi, Taxista Dominicano and others.

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