Sancti Spiritus is Cuba’s hidden gem. Sancti Spirit translated simply means ‘Holy Spirit’. It was founded in 1514 and is one of Cuba’s oldest Spanish settlements. The city has an intriguing history and a charming city centre, yet remains something of a hidden gem. However it’s easily visited as a day trip or detour from its more famous neighbour, Trinidad. So what exactly does Sancti Spiritus city have to offer the visitor? Read on to find out!
Why visit Sancti Spiritus?
Just 70 kms north-east of Trinidad, Sancti Spiritus can be reached by road in roughly an hour. It’s location also makes it ideal for a stop-off on longer journeys between between Trinidad and Camaguey. This means you get a bonus destination thrown in for little extra effort or expense!
But Sancti Spiritus offers far more to visitors than being close to Trinidad. The city is one of the original seven settlements established by the Spanish in the early 1500s. The well preserved colonial heart of Sancti Spiritus city was declared a Cuban National Monument way back in 1978.
Home to Cuba’s Oldest Bridge
Puente Yayabo is Cuba’s oldest existing bridge, dating back to 1815, is in Sancti Spiritus. This local icon, constructed entirely from local stone, is the type of bridge that could easily be found anywhere in Europe.
The Taberna Yayabo, a tavern has the most picturesque views of both the bridge and the gently-flowing river. Take a moment here to enjoy the view with a glass of your favourite beverage.
Sancti Spiritus proudly hosts Cuba’s oldest church, the Iglesia Parroquial Mayor, just two blocks south of the main square. Built in the mid-seventeenth century, it features a distinctive blue exterior and a towering 30-meter bell tower. The panoramic view from the top, reached by climbing 86 steps, is truly worth it. This church stands as a testament to the strong influence of Catholicism on the city’s inhabitants. Inside, the church is filled with numerous donations from parishioners, including a golden dove.
The main entrance, known as the Puerta del Perdon or Gate of Forgiveness, is a fascinating story. In fact legend has it that a woman known for her unpleasant manner, asked to be buried there. Believing that parishioners walking over her as they entered and left the church would serve as penance for her sins.
The Amazing Architecture
Sancti Spiritus certainly has more than its fair share of impressive buildings, but then that could easily be said of Cuba as a whole! Not far from the Iglesia Parroquial Major you’ll find the Museo de Arte Colonial or Colonial Art Museum. It’s housed in the former mansion of sugar barons, the Valle Iznaga family. The family later fled Cuba in 1959 when the revolution succeeded in overthrowing the former dicatator Fulgencio Batista.
The Cuban government has owned their former residence since 1961, preserving 90% of its original contents. Indeed the museum boasts an large collection of artworks and artifacts. From French Limoges porcelain to Baccarat crystal chandeliers. The star attraction however, is an American-bought piano from the mid-eighteenth century, one of only two in all of Cuba.
The Biblioteca Publica Provincial Ruben Martinez Villena is affectionately known as the Biblioteca Provincial. Undoubtedly it’s the city’s most beautiful library. In the late 1920s, it also served as a gathering place for the Sociedad el Progreso. A group of socially progressive and elite residents known for their progressive ideas.
First Television Broadcast
The Biblioteca Publica Provincial Ruben Martinez Villena has been a venue for numerous cultural events over the years. It was even chosen for the city’s first television broadcast. However in recent times it has been transformed into a public library. Inside, visitors can still see a splendid collection of Carrara marble sculptures. The church is also decorated with painted ceilings and stained glass windows, offering a sight worth stopping to admire.
The Teatro Principal was designed in the neoclassical style similar to the Biblioteca Provincial built 90 years earlier.
It received much of its funding from locals who were eager for a proper theatre to replace the makeshift stage on Calle Real. Impressively, the theatre’s construction was completed in just 11 months. Moreover, many experts believe that it’s the oldest theatre in Cuba that still retains its original design.
The city is filled with many charming cobblestone streets. Perhaps the most photogenic are Calle Llano, Calle San Miguel, and Calle Guairo. During the day, these streets bustle with local markets selling fruit and vegetables and household goods. As the sun goes down, the locals come out to socialise in the cool of the evening. Sancti Spiritus a hidden gem at the very least!
Sancti Spiritus a Hidden Gem: Conclusion
So there you have it! Now want to see it in person? Well come book a tour we’ll take you there.