Cathedral Square was a hive of activity and, despite its heavy restoration, it has a real original and traditional feel to it. The Cathedral obviously dominates the square with its impressive double bell tower standing proudly and authoritatively over the plaza’s community. An elderly gentleman strutted around the center of the square sporting a huge cigar and a gnarled walking stick. His vocation was to act as a model for any tourists willing to pay a peso or two for the privilege of using him in their family photo. Other brightly dressed maidens paraded the squares, more blatant in their approach. They would accost obvious tourists and almost demand cash. For her part, a large women sat in the shade, with a lace dress with bright red accessories and a magnificent cigar, waving cheerily to passers-by. I really wasn’t sure what her take was, but her colorful presence added to the joyous feeling of the Square.
The cathedral was originally a Jesuit monastery but was consecrated as Havana Cathedral in the late 1700s and, thereafter, the square was renamed to reflect the status of the church. The elaborate front façade of the cathedral has a bundle of columns and, offset against the perpendicular pillars, the design waves heavenward. It’s full of niches and Baroque embellishments. It’s also interesting to note that although the front seems to have perfect symmetry, my eyes seemed to be playing some kind of trickery with my brain. It looked "wrong" and then it clicked: the right-hand bell tower had two fewer windows; but that wasn’t all. When I properly concentrated, I realized that the left hand tower is much narrower than its stocky twin. Odd, but I guess there must be some story to it!
It doesn’t have the grandest of interiors, but I do love to mooch around old churches, so I was well satisfied. On the altars, there are copies of paintings by Rubens and Murillo, and at the one end of the choir section with its dark wooden fitted carved chairs, there are parts of a fresco by Italian artist Giuseppe Perovanni. Apparently, some of Columbus's remains were kept here between 1796 and 1898, and there still is a nice little sculpture of Saint Christopher, Patron Saint of Havana, dating from 1632 and sculpted by Martín Andújar in Seville, Spain. He stands resplendent in front of a lush red carpet sporting his staff, a bright red hat, and scarf. Very fetching! Around the church, you’ll spot a variety of brightly painted carved angels, often I felt given a touch of quiet humor to the otherwise dour interior.
Around the square is the 1720s building currently housing the Colonial Arts Museum and if you've got time to eat, we read that Casa del Marques—part of the El Patio Restaurant—is well worth an inspection. We, unfortunately, were on a limited stay in Havana and needed to press on to see all the key sights.