Written by Kieran Proctor

Iglesia y Convento de la Merced

Iglesia y Convento de la Merced located in Habana Vieja, is a must visit destination for tourists traveling to Havana ...

Iglesia y Convento de la Merced located in Habana Vieja, is a must visit destination for tourists traveling to Havana Cuba.

Here’s a little of the sites significance and why you too, should visit. Particularly if you’re looking for something free to do, in Havana.

Construction of Convento de la Merced

The Iglesia y Convento de la Merced is unique in that construction began in 1637 and developed slowly until the middle of the 18th Century.

The complex features elements from each of its different periods of construction. And in particular late-baroque and early neoclassical elements are evident in the design.

The interior of the church was decorated between 1865 and 1867 featuring a mix of local Cuban and foreign artists.

Among those artists whose works are featured within the church are the Cubans Chartrand and Miguel Melero. Also featured are the French artist Petit and the Spaniards Zuloaga, Murillo and Alonso Cano.

Consecration of Iglesia y Convento de la Merced

The church is consecrated to the Virgin of La Merced and is an important site in the Afro-Caribbean religion of Santeria.

The Santeria faith is a fusion of multiple religions. However it primarily contains the west African religion of Yoruba transmitted to Cuba through the slave trade. And a Roman Catholic form of Christianity imparted by the Spanish.

Santeria is made up of ‘syncretisms’ where parts of each religion are adapted or melded with its other. In the Santeria faith the lady of mercy, ‘la Merced’ in Spanish, becomes (Mercedes). And ‘Mercedes’ gains a whole new back story.

As a local explained to me, in the Santeria faith the Iglesia y Convento de la Merced is where the Lady of the Merced (Mercedes) connects to the Yoruba divinity Obatala.

The church then becomes a meeting or intersectional point of Roman Catholicism and the west African Yoruba.

Iglesia Y Convento De La Merced Havana Cuba
Iglesia Y Convento De La Merced Havana, Cuba.

Present condition of Convento de la Merced

When I visited the church was in desperate need of renovation and repair. As its suffering from Cuba’s humid tropical climate and damp.At the time I visited, the church was raising donations for repair with a donation box located near the entry.

Entry to the church is free to locals and tourists alike. Yet, I would urge all visitors to the church to drop some money in the donation box. Donations help preserve the site for future generations. And without a steady stream of donations I don’t believe the church will survive another hundred years in Cuba’s humid climate.

Below are some photos I took in December 2021. Be sure to check out our other articles on Cuba. And I’ve included the Google Maps link and directions to the church can be found here.

Where Can I Get More Information About Cuba?

I’ve made my Complete Guide To Traveling Cuba available on this website. And I recommend you read it, before traveling to Cuba. It will help you navigate Cuba and Cuban society.

My Cuba travel guide will save you a lot of time and money on your next trip to Cuba. Cuba is not the sort of destination in which you can arrive unprepared. Read the most complete Guide To Traveling Cuba.