The Elegant Plazas of Cartgena
Plaza Fernández Madrid In 1573 Cartagenas governor had a number of troughs built here to water the citys animals. As a result this plaza was long referred to as Water Trough Plaza. With the completion of the charming church of Santo Toribio in 1736, however, it came to be known as the Plaza of Santo Toribio. The church stands on the corner of the streets of Sargento Mayor and Calle del Curato, which leads towards Hotel Santa Clara and the city wall. The Church of Santo Toribio is open for evening mass at 6:00. This might prove a good starting point for a stroll to include Capuleto Bar on the Calle del Curato, the Alianza Francesa house on the far side of the plaza, followed by dinner at Café del Santísimo just beyond the corner of the plaza on Calle del Santíssimo.
Plaza de San Diego
In the early 1570's the Governor, Francisco Bahamón de Lugo, had an extensive orchard of fruit trees in what is now the Plaza de San Diego, giving the area its first name: "Plaza de Bahamón".The location of the School of Fine Arts (Escuela de Bellas Artes) was the site of the Convent of San Diego. From the time of its construction this monastery gave the permanent name to the Plaza. Across the plaza is the Hotel Santa Clara located in what was the Convent of Saint Clara of Assisi built about 1600. Colombian Nobel Laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez sets a good part of his novel Love and Other Demons in this convent.
Plaza De Bolivar
This plaza was originally known as the "Plaza of the Cathedral". By 1610, however, Phillip the Third of Spain established here the Holy Office of the Inquisition and it took on the name "Plaza of the Inquisition". The first public execution or "auto de fe" of the Inquisition was carried out on this site in 1614. After the independence from Spain the plaza finally received the name of the greatest figure of the Independence Movement, Simon Bolivar. It is hard to imagine, but in the 1890's even bullfights were presented here. Today it houses the Palace of the Inquisition, the Cathedral, and the Gold Museum. Leaving the Plaza along the side of the Palace of the Inquisition you will see a small barred window with a cross above it through which, legend has it, citizens would throw written accusations of their neighbors' heresies. Across the street you will find the Casa Skandia.
Plaza de Santa Teresa
This plaza is located in the southwest corner of the Walled City, and is given its name by the Convent of Santa Teresa, now restored as the impressive Hotel Charleston.The convent was founded in 1609 by an important matron of the period, Doña María Barros y Montalvo, for a group of Carmelite teaching nuns from Pamplona. After the Independence in 1811 the old convent became in turn a jail, a lock factory, a succession of schools, and the main police station. At one time it was even a spaghetti factory! Santa Teresa is not one of the original colonial plazas, coming into being as it did only after the demolition of a part of the convent. But today it is an important entrance to the Old City. Around it are clustered the Naval Museum/>, the offices of the Cartagena Film Festival/>, and important nightspots and restaurants
Plaza de Santo Domingo
The church of Santo Domingo, built in 1539, is the oldest in Cartagena. Legend has it that the Devil, unhappy with the building of this holy place, appeared one day to take matters into his own hand. He leaped up to the tower and made every effort to wrench it from its base. It remained firm, although cocked somewhat from its orientation flush with the façade. The Devil is then said to have descended in wrath upon the well in the plaza, located where now there is an ornate lamppost. His passage left the water tasting of sulfur, making it necessary to seal up the well. That's what the legend says. Today the Plaza of Santo Domingo is one of the most attractive points in the city, both by day and night. Fernando Botero, a well-known Colombian artist, contributed one of his "heavy" sculptures to adorn the Plaza.
Plaza de San Pedro Claver
The church and its plaza are named for the Jesuit priest declared a saint of the Catholic Church for his life of service to the most defenseless of souls, the African slaves cast up in Cartagena during the 17th Century. The imposing façade of the church is one of the most photogenic sites in the city. For a small fee you may enter the adjoining residence and gardens where Saint Pedro Claver lived, worked, and finally died. There is a small museum there, and an entrance to the nave of this magnificent church when the main doors are closed. On the plaza facing the church is also the Museum of Modern Art, in front of which are positioned about the plaza a number of charming sculptures. Make sure to visit the Museum Shop.