Cubans combined attractive memories of the later Gothic style in their architecture at the end of the nineteenth century, thanks to the possibilities of new constructive forms that allowed the recreation of styles from the past. This eclecticism absorbed a variety of forms and details from each of the styles, recreating them with present-day materials and turning them into neo-. This is why most churches that boast Gothic elements are not what they seem.
The only church exemplifying a late Gothic style is the Santo Ángel Custodio. Built to this pattern in 1690, under the direction of Bishop Diego Avelino de Compostela, it is found at the north end of Havana, facing the Armoury, and at the highest point - the old Cayaguayo Hill, later Peña Pobre. In 1846, a hurricane destroyed the tower and the entire front and back of the main structure. The repair was done through open bidding and this introduced significant changes to both the façade and the front apse.
Sagrado Corazón de Jesús is another eclectic church constructed with a Gothic touch. Located on Reina Street between Belascoaín and Manrique in Central Havana, it was built between 1914 and 1923 by architect Herman Gogtza. According to information from that time, the corner stone was laid on August 7, 1913, and the inauguration took place on May 3, 1925.
It was mainly in the early twentieth century that this style inspired students at Havana’s School of Architecture and Engineering. During the 1950s, there was a proliferation of churches, convents and parishes that, within post-modern eclecticism, were inspired by Gothic architecture.
Examples of this trend include the Nuestra Señora de la Caridad Chapel in Vedado Parish, San Pablo de la Cruz and San Francisco de Paula Churches, three convents: San Juan de Letrán, Santa Catalina, Sagrado Corazón de Jesús and San Juan Bosco, and the Siervas de María chapel and convent.
Built a few years apart, they are reminiscent of Gothic, neo-Gothic, and even late Iberian Gothic with Moorish influences, known as Elizabethan and Manueline styles.
The Church of San Pablo de la Cruz is another example. Located in Havana’s 10 de Octubre municipality and completed in 1958, it’s also known as the church of the Passionate Reverend Fathers.
Eclectic in style, mimicking some Gothic elements, it was built in a high place. The result is that it can be seen from several points in the city, following the tenet for constructing a religious temple of this type.
Combining various architectural styles and built outside of their original epoch, these eclectic constructions enrich the history of national heritage with their imposing and elegant presence.