The church had an evangelizing mission in the New World
When Christopher Columbus made his second trip to America, he founded the first city of the New World, La Isabela. He named it in honor of Isabel the Catholic, Queen of Spain, who gave him the supplies for his explorations.
Today, the memories of its glorious past remain and the grounds of this population set in front of the Atlantic, persist unchanged two kilometers away from the original city.
The first Catholic mass took place in that urbanized city, also with its own town hall, and that celebration would mark the evangelization era for America. Fray Bernardo Boil held it with his 12 Friars by his side.
The Catholic Kings, Isabel and Fernando, sent Columbus with an evangelizing mission. An assignment that had to fulfill with holy obedience to make those peoples had the same religious feeling as the Castile Crown.
Fray Bernardo Boil was sent as a papal delegate to do missionary work with indigenous people in the Christopher Columbus second trip. He went together with priests and lay people. Ramon Pane, the most outstanding layman of the Jeronimo, made a great journey on the island to catechizing the indigenous.
The second pastoral group was Franciscan missionaries who dedicated themselves to the evangelization of Indians and their teaching. Then, the Dominican Order arrived and within them were Fray Pedro de Cordoba and Fray Antonio Montesinos. When they realized how indigenous people were treated, they did not hesitate to accuse the injustice situation and protected them. The Mercedarians and Jesuits arrived later.
There are colorful religious paintings and sculptures of Christ and the Virgin inside the new and simplistic Las Americas Temple. The Temple, made of stone and bricks, acquires a particular tone and seems to increase its dimensions when there are religious ceremonies.
The garden with leafy trees and perfectly placed benches where visitors can rest, surround the church that thousands of tourists visit annually and who also get shocked when they know about the Guayacan legend.
People say that many ruins were thrown into the sea after La Isabela was cleaned up with a tractor in the 1950s. Then, where the church altar was, it was preserved a Guayacan tree, and its roots covered all the space where the first Eucharist happened. The most unusual thing is that now it is a kind of natural sanctuary for parishioners, more than 500 years later.
It is an emblematic place for religious tourism that gathers many pilgrims who want to know the first church in the New World by themselves.
Fray Bernardo Boil held the first Mass with 12 priests by his side.
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TEXT: Elena Crespo; IMAGES: Suresh