South America


church of St. Dominic


The discovery of Chile

Chile was not discovered all at once by any one person. Rather, it was discovered over the course of many years by Spanish explorers, one piece at a time. Magellan discovered the south of Chile in 1529, Francisco de Hoces discovered Cape Horn and Diego de Almagro discovered the north and center of the country in 1536.

Although Diego de Almagro had already acquired sufficient wealth in the conquest of Peru and was living a luxurious life in Cuzco, the prospect of conquering Chile was very attractive to him. A dispute with Francisco Pizarro had arisen over the subject of the city of Cuzco, and their relationship had deteriorated. Not wanting to stay in that tense situation, Almagro spent a great deal of time and money equipping a company of 500 men to go with him on his new journey. The conqueror departed from Cuzco at the beginning of July 1535, and headed straight for Chile.
After crossing the Bolivian mountain range and traveling past Lake Titicaca, Almagro arrived on the shores of the Desaguadero River and finally set up camp in Tupiza. In January 1536, he arrived in Argentina and made his way across the mountains, battling against the indigenous peoples who were defending their land. Suffering from the effects of the heat and the height of the mountains, they nevertheless continued their journey. It cost 10,000 Spaniards and natives their lives, as well as most of the horses.
As it seemed at this point difficult to go on, Almagro decided to take a group of his men with him to the Valley of Copiapó, where they managed to get provisions and ttook them back to the rest of his men. From there, they managed to continue their way through the valley of Aconcagua, and started exploring the country. After some time, Almagro realized that Chile would not be the easy conquest he had hoped it would be. Seeing that Chile was a land made up of indigenous tribes who worked the land and fiercely stood their ground, Almagro quickly came to the conclusion that the country was not the land of riches he had been led to believe. Diego de Almagro decided to go back to Peru, where Hernando Pizarro and Pedro de Valdivia toppeled him in the battle of the salt mines. Not long after, he died in Peru.

Foundation of the city of Santiago

Pedro de Valdivia had taken part in a large number of battles by then. After helping Pizarro to win the battle against Almagro, he managed to obtain a rich silvermine and a considerable number of natives to work for him. Valdivia was finally authorized by Charles V to conquer Chile. With the help of a number of people, Valdivia set out from Cuzco with 11 Spanish soldiers and 1,000 Peruvian Indians. On the way he managed to enlist another hundred-odd soldiers. Valdivia entered the valley of Copiapó and after 11 months of expedition, he finally set up camp on the shores of the Mapocho River and founded the city of Santiago del Nuevo Extremo on the 12th of February 1541.

 The city was trapezium-shaped, confined by the river on the north and south, the hills to the east and what is now the Avenida Brasil to the west. The land was divided into squares, and one of the most central squares was named the Plaza de Armas, in which Valdivia planted a cherry tree and called it the tree of just. The north side of the square was reserved for the governor's residence and the jail, while the church was erected on the west side.

Six months after its foundation, the city was destroyed by Michimalongo's men. It was, however, immediately rebuilt in the same place.

During the Colonial period, the immigration of Spaniards to Santiago was massive. This led to the construction of twelve more churches and many residences. There were many earthquakes during this period, however, and only a few of the buildings were left standing. Some of these include Iglesia de San Francisco (1618), which is still a church today, Velasco's residence (Casa de Manso de Velasco) (1730), the Posada del Corregidor (1750) and the house which once belonged to Mateo de Toro y Zambrano, which is known as the Casa Colorada today (1769).

During the Renaissance explorers and settlers founded many new cities; they built new bridges, as well as new roads and canals. It was during this era that architect Joaquín Toesca arrived in Santiago to build the Neo-Classical Palacio de la Moneda (1805), currently the residence and office building of Chile's president. He also built the Catedral de Santiago (1785), the Iglesia de la Merced (1795), the Iglesia de Santo Domingo (1808).


Church of Saint Dominic in Santiago, Región Metropolitana.

The beauty of this construction lies in its simple lines and the height of the Bavarian Baroque style brick towers.
The church is a neoclassical style with Creole influence. The first stone was laid in 1747 and it was built by the architect Juan de los Santos Vasconcellos. Later, in 1795 and 1796, the work was transferred to the architect Joaquín Toesca. Inside you can appreciate its largeness and moderation. Besides the colonial paintings on the inside you can learn more about the life of Santo Domingo, the church's namesake.

 Also famous are the building of the Real Audiencia, which is today the Museo Nacional Historico. After Chile's independence, Bernardo O'Higgins inaugurated the Alameda de las Delicias, along the old course of the river, planting four lines of poplars (1820) and founding the city's cemetery, or Cementerio General (1820). Finally the Cerro Santa Lucía was made into a public park.

In the 1900s the wealth from the salt mines, among other things, brought Santiago many new advances. The first newspapers appeared, as did the electric trams; large houses and buildings were built, such as the Subercaseaux House (1930), the Ochagavía House and the Irarrázaval House. Museo de Bellas Artes opened in 1910, and in 1913 construction began on the Biblioteca Nacional (National Library).


For the modern history see Internet.

Sources: Internet




Church of St. Dominic in Santiago de Chile.


Chile 1970, Mi 731, Sc 387.


The same picture: Spain 1969, Mi 1832, Sc 1585.







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