Cuba-Cathédral de la Havane
By Victor Carabain (Flemish, 1863-1942)
Oil on Canvas
H 24 in. X W 35 ½ in. (actual)
Knights of Columbus Religious Heritage Art Collection
The edifice of the Cathedral of Havana is depicted in this 19th century oil painting by the Flemish painter Victor Carabain.
The artist employs his soft, muted palette to paint the historic baroque stone façade, known as the Cathedral of The Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception. In the foreground we see residents of old Havana carry on with aspects of their everyday life at the plaza marketplace.
The cathedral was constructed by Jesuits (1748-77) on the site of an earlier church. It is also dedicated to Saint Christopher, the patron saint of Havana. Thus it is sometimes dubbed as Catedral de San Cristóbal de la Habana (Cathedral of Saint Christopher of Havana). It is also commonly called Catedral Colon, since some of Christopher Columbus' remains were kept here between 1796-1898. They are now in the Seville Cathedral, in Spain.
Built in the former Swamp Plaza during the colonial period, the Cathedral is said to be the only example of a baroque facade that was designed with asymmetrical features, since one of the towers is wider than the other. This was done in order to allow the water that tended to accumulate on the plaza to flow through the streets out to the bay. The bells are said to have been cast with gold and silver mixed into the bronze to give them their sweet tone.
After 39 years of repression of the Church in Cuba, Pope John Paul II made a historic visit there in 1998 and visited the historic Cathedral. It was the first visit of a successor of St. Peter to Cuba and its people. Millions came to see him at various public masses and observances during his five-day visit.