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Las Murallas
The City Walls

Santo Domingo was eventually entirely surrounded by walls. But it was not so from the beginning.

In 1541, the convenience of a city wall was first discussed.

The first stone was placed in 1543, but the work was not finished until the eighteenth century.

The south side of the city did not need walls. The cliffs and ridges protected it. Some fortresses were erected there.

The walls were begun on the West. When Drake invaded Santo Domingo, this side was already protected. His troops entered through two gates: the Puerta de la Misericordia (Gate of Mercy) and the gate later named Puerta del Conde.

Rodrigo de Liendo was the master builder of the oldest or western part of the wall. To him we owe the massive Church of St. Francis and the Church of Las Mercedes. He also participated in the early construction of the Cathedral.

By 1564 work was progressing on the segment of the wall along the Fortress.

During the last quarter of the sixteenth century work was in progress on the upstream wall.

In 1655 there was still no wall surrounding Santa Barbara.

And in 1681 the city is still defenseless on the northern flank. This sector was finally closed during the first quarter of the eighteenth century . One cannot speak of superb military engineering. It was, in fact, a wall without moats. And the stone chemise was not even fifteen feet high. In 1654, the so-called old wall was said to be made of mud and rubble. Most of it without parapets. In 1568, groves and pastures were common between the houses on the outskirts and the city walls. A plan of Santo Domingo city from around 1716 or 1717 shows quite a lot of vacant land to the north and to the west, as well as between the current Arzobispo Portes Street and the sea cliffs, to the south. The same is evident in another drawing from 1785.

The Gate of San Diego was the main entrance. The city was accessed through this gate from the port. Santo Domingo received all its important visitors through this door. It dates back to 1557-1564. The Puerta de la Misericordia to the west also dates back to this period.

Some fortresses were located in strategic spots. Not all of them belongto the same period. At the time of thefailed English invasion led by Penn and Venables in 1655, there were only four forts along the city wall: San Diego, San Jose, San Gil and another smaller one of which there are still vestiges, not far north of Padre Billini Street.

Between 1548 and 1553, a fortress -the Fortress of San Jose- was built near the College of Gorjón.

The Fort of Santiago was ona segment of the wall overlooking the Ozama River. The remains of its sentry box, walls and original pavement are still there. Construction was underway in 1567.

The wages then paid to master builders or architects were ludicrous. Rodrigo de Liendo was only given some clothing for his contribution towards building the wall. He was also honored with a title: Principal Master Builder, but it was made expressly clear to him that his functions did not entail a salary.

1543: The first stone. Work begins on the West.

1564: Work begins on the span facing the Fortress.

1575: The upstream wall is built during the last quarter of the sixteenth century.

1655: the area of Santa Bárbara, on the north, is still open. This segment was closed in the first quarter of the eighteenth century.

1681: To the north, all the city is open. During the first quarter of the eighteenth century they closed this flank.

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