Faro a Colon

Santo Domingo
Republica Dominicana


THE ORIGINAL IDEA OF ERECTING AN INTERNATIONAL MONUMENT WITH THE CHARACTERISTICS OF A LIGHTHOUSE, DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF CHISTOPHER COLUMBUS, BELONGS TO THE DOMINICAN WRITER AND HISTORIAN DON ANTONIO DEL MONTE Y TEJADA, WHO EXPRESSED IN HIS "HISTORY OF SANTO DOMINGO", PUBLISHED IN HAVANA, CUBA, IN 1852:

"LET ALL AMERICA AT ONCE PROCLAIM, AND LET IT BE KNOWN THOUGH ALL THE PUBLIC MEDIA, THAT THE GLORY OF THE DISCOVERY BELONGS TO COLUMBUS; THAT SIMILAR DEEDS DONE BY OTHERS IN THE COURSE OF HISTORY OWE MUCH TO HIM, THE INSTRUMENT OF SUCH A GREAT DISCOVERY; THAT ALL THE CONSEQUENCES OF THIS INESTIMABLE ACT OF CIVILIZATION ARE OWED TO HIM BECAUSE OF THE FRUITS IT HAS PRODUCED IN THE KNOWLEDGE AND SPIRIT OF MANKIND.... LET US ERECT A STATUE THAT WILL TESTIFY TO HIS MEMORY....AND A BEACON OF LIGHT BE PLACED ON IT, SO THAT THE TRAVELERS FROM THE OLD AND THE NEW WORLDS, UPON FIRST SIGHTING LAND FROM THE SEA, MAY TURN THEIR EYES TOWARD THAT VENERABLE SHADOW WITH GRATITUDE AND TENDERNESS".

BUT THE EVENT THAT DEFINITELY LAUNCHED THE PROPOSAL OF THE DOMINICAN HISTORIAN, TWENTY-FIVE YEARS LATER, WAS THE EXTRAORDINARY FINDING OF THE REMAINS OF THE GREAT ADMIRAL DON CRISTOBAL COLON, DISCOVERED BY CHANCE ON SEPTEMBER 10TH., 1877, DURING RESTORATION WORKS IN THE PRESBYTERY OF THE FIRST CATHEDRAL OF AMERICA, IN SANTO DOMINGO.

WHEN CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS DIED IN THE SPANISH CITY OF VALLADOLIC ON MAY 20TH., 1506, HIS MORTAL REMAINS WERE DEPOSITED IN THE CONVENT OF SAN FRANCISCO, IN CASTILLA LA VIEJA. THREE YEARS LATER, APRIL 11TH, 1509, THEY WERE MOVED TO THE MONASTERY OF CARTULOS DE LAS CUEVA, IN SEVILLE. THERE, SEVENTEEN YEARS LATER, THE BODY OF HIS SON DIEGO WAS ALSO BURIED, UPON HIS DEATH IN PUEBLO DE MONTALBAN, NEAR TOLEDO, IN 1526.

THE REMAINS OF THE FIRST AND SECOND ADMIRALS, CHRISTOPHER AND DIEGO COLUMBUS, WERE BROUGHT FROM SPAIN TO THE ISLAND OF HISPANIOLA IN 1544, BY DIEGO'S WIDOW, DONA MARIA DE TOLEDO, TO FULFIL AN EXPRESSED WISH OF THE DISCOVERER THAT HE BE BURIED IN "THE LAND HE LOVED MOST". THEY WERE DEPOSITED IN THE MAIN CHAPEL OF THE CATHEDRAL, UNDER THE MAIN ALTAR, GRANTED TO COLUMBUS' GRANDSON LUIS BY THE EMPEROR CHARLES V OF GERMANY AND I OF SPAIN, BY ROYAL DECREE OF JUNE 2, 1537, ON REQUEST OF DONA MARIA DE TOLEDO, TO BE USED AS BURIAL GROUNDS FOR THE DISCOVERER AND HIS DESCENDANTS.

BY THE TREATY OF BASILEA SPAIN CEDED TO FRANCE THE SPANISH PORTION OF THE ISLAND OF HISPANIOLA. THIS EVENT PROMPTED THE GOVERNMENT AND RELIGIOUS AUTHORITIES TO SEND THE REMAINS OF THE GREAT ADMIRAL TO CUBA, WHERE THEY WOULD BE KEPT UNDER THE SPANISH FLAG. THE DOCUMENT CERTIFYING THIS ACTION ONLY STATES THAT THE REMAINS OF "SOME DECEASED" WERE REMOVED FROM THE MAIN CHAPEL OF THE CATHEDRAL OF SANTO DOMINGO TO BE EMBARKED TO CUBA. WHEN IN 1898 CUBA OBTAINED ITS INDEPENDENCE FROM SPANISH RULE, THESE REMAINS WERE TAKEN TO SPAIN WHERE THEY ARE KEPT TO THIS DAY IN THE CATHEDRAL OF SEVILLE.

THE FINDING IN 1877, INSIDE A CRYPT UNDER THE MAIN ALTAR OF SANTO DOMINGO'S CATHEDRAL, OF AN ANTIQUE LEAD BOX CONTAINING HUMAN BONES, WITH AN INSCRIPTION ON THE INSIDE OF THE LID THAT READS: "THE ILLUSTRIOUS AND PROMINENT VARON DON CRISTOBAL COLON" SHOOK THE WORLD. THE EVENT WAS RECORDED IN THE PRESENCE OF NUMEROUS PERSONALITIES, BOTH DOMINICAN AND FOREIGN, AND SERVED AS THE TRANSCENDENTAL EVENT THAT BROUGHT ABOUT THE COLUMBUS MEMORIAL LIGHTHOUSE, SOME ONE-HUNDRED AND FIFTEEN YEARS LATER. IT ALSO INSPIRED THE MUNICIPALITY OF SANTO DOMINGO TO ORDER THE MAGNIFICENT BRONZE STATUE OF COLUMBUS, SCULPTED BY THE FRENCH MASTER E. GUILBERT AND INAUGURATED IN FEBRUARY 1887, THAT TODAY STANDS IN THE COLUMBUS PLAZA ADJACENT TO THE CATHEDRAL.

ON THE OCCASION OF THE FOURTH CENTENNIAL OF THE DISCOVERY OF AMERICA, THE NATIONAL COLUMBUS COUNCIL WAS CREATED IN CHARGE OF ERECTING AN ADEQUATE TOMB FOR COLUMBUS' ASHES. ITS RECOMMENDATIONS WERE: "TO SCULPTURE A HANDSOME SEPULCHER IN MARBLE OF CARRARA OR IN BRONZE, OR IN BOTH MATERIALS COMBINED" AND TO PLACE IT TEMPORARILY IN THE CENTRAL AISLE OF THE CATHEDRAL WHERE THE ASHES HAD LAID SINCE THE ADMIRAL'S WISH WAS FULFILLED AND RATIFIED BY EMPEROR CHARLES V'S ORDERS TO GIVE THEM DEFINITE BURIAL IN SANTO DOMINGO. THE PLACE CHOSEN WAS THE CENTRAL AISLE NEAR THE MAIN ENTRANCE. ARTISTS FROM OVER THE WORLD WERE INVITED TO PARTICIPATE IN THE CONTEST, OPENED ON OCTOBER 12, 1894. THE SPECIFICATIONS INDICATED THAT THE ERECTION OF THE MAUSOLEUM IN THE CATHEDRAL WOULD BE TEMPORARY AND AS SUCH, ITS VARIOUS COMPONENTS SHOULD BE DESIGNED IN SUCH A MANNER AS TO PERMIT THAT THEY BE DISMOUNTED, TAKEN APART AND CARRIED TO THEIR DEFINITE POSITION IN THE MONUMENT TO BE BUILT FOR THAT PURPOSE.

THIRTEEN SCULPTORS PARTICIPATED AND THE WINNER WAS THE PROJECT PRESENTED BY THE SPANISH SCULPTOR PEDRO CARBONELL AND THE ARCHITECT FERNANDO ROMEU. ON DECEMBER 5TH., 1898, THE MAUSOLEUM WAS INAUGURATED AND IN GREAT SOLEMNITY THE LEAD BOX CONTAINING THE ASHES OF THE DISCOVERER WAS PLACED INSIDE THE BRONZE URN IN THE CENTER OF THE MONUMENT.

THE MAUSOLEUM IS A GOTHIC MONUMENT, FORTY-FIVE FEET HIGH, THAT STANDS ON A RECTANGULAR BASE MEASURING THIRTY-FIVE BY FORTY FEET. FLANKED BY FOUR BRONZE LIONS, IT IS PRESIDED BY THE MAGNIFICENT FEMININE FIGURE REPRESENTING THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, DESTINE BY HISTORY TO GUARD THE VENERABLE ASHES OF THE GREAT DISCOVERER. ENGRAVED IN BRONZE ON THE FOUR FACADES OF THE MONUMENT, A PHRASE TAKEN FROM COLUMBUS' TESTAMENT TO HIS SON READS: "AND ALSO HE SPECIALLY REQUESTED THAT HIS MONEY BE BURIED IN THIS ISLAND, AS A BETTER SEPULCHER HE COULD NOT NOR DID HE CHOOSE THAN IN THESE PARTS THAT GOD MIRACULOUSLY WISHED TO LET HIM KNOW, DISCOVER AND GAIN".

IN 1914, WHEN DEL MONTE Y TEJADA'S IDEA SEEMED DESTINED TO BE FORGOTTEN, IN THE NORTH AMERICAN PRESS, IN ARTICLES FAVORABLY RECEIVED AND DISCUSSED ALL OVER AMERICA, MR. WILLIAM PULLIAM PROMOTED THE IDEA OF ERECTING A LIGHTHOUSE MONUMENT TO THE MEMORY OF COLUMBUS ON THE COAST OF THE CITY OF SANTO DOMINGO, THE CAPITAL OF THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC.

BUT IT WAS THE FIFTH INTERNATIONAL AMERICAN CONFERENCE, HELD IN SANTIAGO, CHILE, THAT MADE THE REALIZATION OF THIS GLORIOUS DREAM POSSIBLE, BY VOTING ON APRIL 24, 1923, THE RESOLUTION LATER APPROVED BY ALL THE GOVERNMENTS OF AMERICA THAT RECOMMENDED "THAT GOVERNMENTS OF THE REPUBLICS OF AMERICA, BY ERECTING A LIGHTHOUSE MONUMENT TO BE DEDICATED TO COLUMBUS, ON THE COAST OF THE CITY OF SANTO DOMINGO, CAPITAL OF THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC.....THIS MONUMENT SHOULD BE BUILT WITH THE COOPERATION OF ALL THE GOVERNMENTS AND PEOPLES OF AMERICA, AS WELL AS WITH THE COOPERATION OF ALL THE NATIONS OF THE EARTH".

IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE COLUMBUS MEMORIAL LIGHTHOUSE WAS DECLARED TO BE IN THE NATIONAL INTEREST AND AN INTERNATIONAL CONTEST WAS CONVOKED. THIS CONTEST WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT EVER CELEBRATED AND NO DOUBT THE MOST UNIVERSAL IN THE HISTORY OF ARCHITECTURE.

THE FIRST PRIZE WAS AWARDED TO JOSEPH LEA GLEAVE, OF ENGLAND. GLEAVE WAS A YOUNG ARCHITECT WHEN HE WAS AWARDED THE PRIZE IN 1931. BORN IN 1907 INTO A MODEST FAMILY, HE STUDIED AT THE SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MANCHESTER. HE DIED AT THE AGE OF 56, JANUARY 16TH., 1965. HIS SON DAVID, A PAINTER AND MEMBER OF HIS FATHER'S FIRM IN GLASGOW, RECALLS HAVING ACCOMPANIED HIS FATHER TO SANTO DOMINGO WHEN WORK ON THE LIGHTHOUSE WAS BEGUN.

THE DESIGNS FOR THE MONUMENT REPRESENTED A BEAUTIFUL UTOPIA. ARTISTS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD CONCEIVED THE MOST DIVERSE STRUCTURES CONSISTING OF HIGH TOWERS SURROUNDED BY AVENUES AND LAKES. BUT THE INTERNATIONAL JURY CHOSE GLEAVE'S PROJECT, AN ENORMOUS CROSS-SHAPED STRUCTURE DESIGNED TO LAST FOR ALL TIMES.

OF GLEAVE'S WORK THE JURY REPORTED: "THE DESIGN, MAKING WONDERFUL USE OF LIGHT, TAKES REFUGE IN A DIRECTNESS, SIMPLICITY AND FORCE WORTHY OF THE MONUMENTS OF THE AGES. THE DESIGN IS SYMBOLIC, BUT NOT TO THE EXTENT WHERE SYMBOLISM INTERFERES WITH THE SIMPLE BEAUTY OF THE WORK AS ARCHITECTURE. SEEN FROM THE AIR, OR FROM ITS SURROUNDINGS, THE SIMPLE MASS BECOMES A NOBLE ELEMENTAL FEATURE OF THE GROUND AND OF A CHARACTER WORTHY OF THE STEADFAST COURAGE AND FAITH OF THE GREAT DISCOVERER IT COMMEMORATES".

OF HIS OWN WORK, CLEAVE SAYS: "THE IDEA OF THE GREAT COLUMBUS MEMORIAL LIGHTHOUSE IS DECIDED BY COLUMBUS HIMSELF. IT SHALL BE A TREMENDOUS CROSS CARVED INTO THE GROUND, AN ENDURING REFLECTION OF THE WOODEN CROSSES SET UP BY COLUMBUS WHEN HE FIRST ARRIVED...YET A CROSS SIMILAR TO THE THOUSANDS OF OTHER CROSSES ERECTED AS MEMORIALS DURING THE CHRISTIAN ERA, IS INSUFFICIENT. THIS CROSS MUST BE GIVEN A CHARACTER, A FORM, A SHAPE TO MAKE IT UNMISTAKINGLY A MEMORIAL FOR A PECULIAR PURPOSE--A SYMBOL OF COLUMBUS".

"THE VALUE OF COLUMBUS LIES NOT IN WHAT HE WAS BUT IN WHAT HE DID, AND IN ALL THAT HIS DISCOVERIES AND COLONIZATIONS HAVE MEANT TO THE WORLD. ONLY WHEN HIS INFLUENCE IS SEEN IN PERSPECTIVE WITH HIS CIVILIZATION DOES HE ATTAIN HIS REAL STATURE. THE MEMORIAL IS NOT MERELY A MONUMENT TO GLORIFY COLUMBUS AS A MAN. AS ONE OF THE GREAT GESTURES OF THE AGES, IT CAN ONLY BE A MONUMENT TO GLORIFY AN IDEAL: THE INNATE URGE TO AN UNKNOWN END THAT OVER THE CHRISTIAN WORLD IS KNOWN AS GOD, AND IS SYMBOLIZED BY THE CROSS."

THOUGH BY 1950 ONLY EIGHT COUNTRIES HAD MADE CONTRIBUTIONS TOTALING LESS THAN FIFTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS, THE DOMINICAN GOVERNMENT WENT ON WITH THE PROJECT AND IN 1948 THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE MONUMENT CONSISTING OF A GREAT LYING CROSS WAS INAUGURATED. BUT THE GROWINGLY UNSTABLE POLITICAL SITUATION IN THE COUNTRY MADE IT IMPOSSIBLE TO CONTINUE THE WORKS UNTIL THE YEAR 1966 JOAQUIN BALAGUER WAS ELECTED PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC.

THE PARTICIPATION OF PRESIDENT BALAGUER IN THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE COLUMBUS MEMORIAL LIGHTHOUSE WAS DECISIVE, FROM THE VERY BEGINNING OF HIS FIRST TERM IN OFFICE UNTIL THE INAUGURATION OF THE MONUMENT IN OCTOBER 1992.

THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC WAS TO BE A PRIVILEGED SCENARIO FOR THE COMMEMORATION OF THE FIFTH CENTENNIAL OF THE DISCOVERY AND EVANGELIZATION OF AMERICA, BEING THE LAND OF THE GREAT PRIMACIES, NOT ONLY AS THE CRADLE OF THE EUROPEAN CIVILIZATION BUT ALSO OF CHRISTIANITY IN THE NEW WORLD. IT WAS FOR THIS REASON CHOSEN TO BE THE SEAT OF THE FOURTH GENERAL CONFERENCE OF THE LATIN AMERICAN EPISCOPAL COUNCIL, PRESIDED BY HIS HOLINESS POPE JOHN PAUL II.

COMMEMORATIVE FESTIVITIES OF THIS GREAT EVENT, THE DOMINICAN REPUBLICA GAVE THE WORLD THE COLUMBUS MEMORIAL LIGHTHOUSE, IN FULFILLMENT OF THE COMMITMENT MADE BY THE MODERN WORLD WITH THE MAN THAT COMPLETED THE ROUNDNESS OF OUR PLANET, FIVE-HUNDRED YEARS AGO. ON THAT MEMORABLE DAY, THE LEAD BOX CONTAINING THE MORTAL REMAINS OF THE DISCOVERER OF THE NEW WORLD WERE CARRIED IN SOLEMN PROCESSION FROM THE FIRST CATHEDRAL OF AMERICA, THOUGH THE NARROW STREETS OF THE COLONIAL CITY OF SANTO DOMINGO, ACROSS THE HISTORICAL OZAMA RIVER TO THE SLOPE DOMINATING THE OLDEST CITY OF AMERICA AND OVERLOOKING THE CARIBBEAN SEA. THERE STOOD, IN ALL ITS MAJESTOUSITY, THE COLUMBUS MEMORIAL LIGHTHOUSE, IN WHOSE HEART AWAITED THE WHITE MARBLE AND BRONZE MAUSOLEUM WHERE CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS WOULD BE PUT TO REST FOR ALL AGES.

ON THE EAST ESPLANADE OF THE MONUMENT, ON OCTOBER 11TH., HIS HOLINESS POPE JOHN PAUL II CELEBRATED MASS, ASSISTED BY CARDINALS, BISHOPS AND PRIESTS PARTICIPATING IN THE LATIN AMERICAN EPISCOPAL COUNCIL CONFERENCE, IN FRONT OF AN IMPRESSIVE MULTITUDE. DURING THE MASS, THE AUGUSTINE MISSIONARY EXEQUIEL MORENO WAS CANONIZED IN THE FIRST CANONIZATION CELEBRATED BY THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN AMERICA.

THE MONUMENT WAS OPENED TO THE PUBLIC ON OCTOBER 16TH. SINCE THEN, MORE THAN ONE MILLION PEOPLE HAVE VISITED THE MONUMENT.

THOUGH ORIGINALLY CONCEIVED BY GLEAVE MAINLY AS A FUNERAL MONUMENT, ON REQUEST OF PRESIDENT BALAGUER IT WAS ADAPTED TO HOUSE PERMANENT EXHIBITIONS OF EACH AMERICAN NATION, AS WELL AS OF OTHERS OF EUROPE AND ASIA. TODAY SIXTY-THREE EXHIBITIONS REPRESENTING DIFFERENT NATIONS AND CULTURAL AND HISTORICAL EVENTS RELATED TO THE DISCOVERY AND WORLDWIDE EVENTS OF HUMANITY GIVE THE MONUMENT A UNIVERSAL CHARACTER.

THE OPERATION AND MAINTENANCE OF THE LIGHTHOUSE IS THE DIRECT RESPONSIBILITY OF THE PATRONATO FARO A COLON, FORMED BY THE ARCHBISHOP OF SANTO DOMINGO, HIS EMINENCE CARDINAL NOCALS DE JESUS LOPEZ RODRIGUEZ, THE MINSTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, THE PRESIDENT OF THE DOMINICAN ACADEMY OF HISTORY, THE CHIEF OF THE NAVY AND THE GOVERNOR OF THE LIGHTHOUSE.

THE COLUMBUS MEMORIAL LIGHTHOUSE, A CROSS-SHAPED MONUMENT IN REINFORCED CONCRETE, 680 FEET LONG FROM EAST TO WEST AND 195 FEET NORTH TO SOUTH, HAS BECOME THE MOST VISITED MONUMENT IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC AND PROBABLY IN THE CARIBBEAN AREA. IT IS FOR SURE THE MOST IMPRESSIVE NIGHT SPECTACLE, WHEN THE VERTICAL SHEETS OF LIGHT RISING FROM THE 157 BEAMS ON ITS CANYONS REFLECT THE GREAT CROSS ON THE SKY THAT CAN BE SEEN MILES AROUND. THE MULTIPLE COLORS OF THE FLAGS WAVING TOGETHER IN ITS FACADE SYMBOLIZE THE FRATERNITY OF NATIONS AND THE UNION OF THE DIFFERENT CULTURES, RACES AND BELIEFS THAT INHABIT THE EARTH.