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The Panteón Nacional was erected between 1714 and 1745 as a Jesuit monastery and church. It was restored in 1958 by brutal Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo as a national cemetery for heroes.

When the Jesuits were expelled from the Americas in 1767 for a series of political, economic and religions actions mostly involving the Taino Indians, the building was used as a tobacco warehouse, a theatre, a school and other uses before its restoration.

Today the Panteón Nacional is the final resting place for most of the country’s former Presidents and many of its other patriots and heroes. However, Trujillo, the brainchild of this mausoleum, was denied the privilege of being interred here when he was assassinated in 1961.

The interior of the former church is in the shape of a crucifix with a center nave and lateral chapels. Hanging above the intersection of these areas is a grandiose bronze chandelier. The flame beneath the chandelier burns 24 hours a day. The chandelier was donated by Spain’s General Francisco Franco as a symbolic contribution of his country to the monument’s restoration.

The ceilings are adorned with a mural called “Ascensión a los Cielos” (Ascension to the Heavens) by Spanish artist Rafael Pellicer.

The walls are lined with crypts of former Dominican national heroes. Eugenio Maria de Hostos is the only non-Dominican interred in the Panteón Nacional.

Hostos spent much of his life as a freedom fighter. He advocated for the rights of women in Chile and independence for Cubans. He fought against the exploitation of imported Chinese laborers in Peru. Most of all, he fought unsuccessfully for the independence of Puerto Rico, his homeland.

In 1879 he settled in Santo Domingo and founded the first school for teachers in the Dominican Republic the following year. For the next decade, he undertook an intense program of educational reforms in the country.

His final wish to be buried in a free country.

The stern-facade building was built between 1714 and 1748. It was the last building constructed by the Spaniards.


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