Iglesia y Convento de Nuestra Señora de Belén
Iglesia y Convento de Nuestra Señora de Belén (Church and Convent of Our Lady of Bethlehem, Compostela y Luz, tel. 07/860-3150, Mon.–Sat. 9 a.m.–5 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m.–1 p.m., free), the city’s largest religious complex in Havana, occupying an entire block. The convent, completed in 1718, was built to house the first nuns to arrive in Havana and later served as a refuge for convalescents.
In 1842, Spanish authorities ejected the religious order and turned the church into a government office before making it over to the Jesuits. They in turn established a college for the sons of the aristocracy. The Jesuits were the nation’s official weather forecasters and in 1858 erected the Observatorio Real (Royal Observatory) atop the tower. It was in use until 1925. At last visit, the convent was still being renovated.
Iglesia y Convento de Nuestra Señora de Belén are linked to contiguous buildings across the street by an arched walkway—the Arco de Belén (Arch of Bethlehem)—spanning Acosta.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Cuba, 5th Edition