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Roman Catholicism is the state religion and about 90% of the population is Roman Catholic; other religions are allowed.

The republic has five church territories; Santo Domingo, the seat of a bishop since 1511, became the archbishopric of the New World in 1545.

The role of the Roman Catholic Church, especially since 1960, has become increasingly critical; the church strives to improve living standards, promote land reform and uphold human rights.

In the course of the 18th and 19th centuries, Protestant societies from the Netherlands, France and the United States, among others, also came to Hispaniola. The spiritual character of Baptists, Methodists, Adventists and Jehovah's also appealed to the descendants of slaves.

However, African traditions and rituals also remained present among the population, especially 'vodú' (voodoo) and 'brujería'. This popular religion is based on mysticism and ancestor worship. Besides the spirits, the 'zombies', of the ancestors, there are numerous gods. In the vodú, these are the 'loas', in the brujería the 'luás'. In the course of time, the luás have taken on Christian forms and become 'santos'. Luás and santos are called up during ceremonies by a priest, the 'brujo' or 'bruja', and this is accompanied by drumming, dancing and singing. These religious figures occupy a prominent place in the social life of the black Dominicans. The Catholic Church is, of course, very sceptical about these practices, but in recent years it has adopted a somewhat more tolerant attitude.

Religious festivals

In Higüey, the biggest religious ceremony takes place every year on 21 January, in honour of LaVirgen de Altagracia. Many pilgrims gather at the large cathedral.

Seven weeks after Easter, the feast in honour of Espiritu Santo, the Holy Spirit, is celebrated in various places in the country. In the procession, the Holy Spirit is carried around in the form of the African god Kalunda.

In the third week of June, the feast of San Juan Bautista (John the Baptist) is celebrated in a few places. The African equivalent is Changó, the god of fire, storm and lightning.

On 29 September there is the feast of the patron saint of the Dominican Republic, San Miguel, who stands for the vodú god Belié-Belcán, symbol of peace and justice.

At Christmas there are so-called guloya parties, vodú ceremonies and processions throughout the country.

Important Churches

Santo Domingo - Nuestra Señora Santa María de la Encarnación, Primada de América. It is the first cathedral built on the continent of America; construction began in 1510 and was completed in 1540. The church was built as a temple, with three naves, a length of 55 metres and a width of up to 23 metres. The style of the church is a mixture of late Gothic, Renaissance and Arabic details.

Santo Domingo - Capilla de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios. This little chapel was one of the first houses of worship on Hispaniola. The still working sun clock next to the chapel dates from 1753.

Santo Domingo - Catedral Santa María la Menor. This is the oldest cathedral in the Americas, designed by the Italian bishop Alessandro Geraldini and built from 1523 by Luís de Moya and Rodrigo de Liendo, is a mixture of Renaissance, Romanesque, Baroque and late Gothic.

The first stone was laid by Columbus' son Diego.

San Cristobál - Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Consolación. This neo-classical church was built on the initiative of dictator Trujillo. His mausoleum can be found in this church; his body still lies in Paris at Père-Lachaise, the cemetery for celebrities.

Higüey - Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia. This is the Basilica of the Virgin of Altagracia, a very remarkable, many say ugly, building, the centre of pilgrims to this city. The cathedral was built in the 1950s.

Very striking is the metres high concrete arch, which actually takes the place of the tower. The French architects André Jacques Dunoyer de Segonzac and Pierre Dupré designed the spire as a pair of praying hands. The chimes of this church are the largest in the New World.

Moca - Sagrado Corazón de Jesús. This Sacred Heart church is the second largest in the country.

Santiago de los Caballeros - Catedral de Santiago Apóstol. Dating from 1895, this cathedral has Gothic and Neoclassical elements (including the tower) and a mahogany altar. At the main entrance is the mausoleum for the Heroes of the Restoration of the Republic.

La Vega - Catedral de la Concepción de La Vega. A solid concrete church built in 1992.

La Vega - Iglesia Virgen de la Mercedes - Built in 1886 in the early colonial style. The church holds a splinter of the cross as a relic, which according to legend did not burn in 1495 at the hands of the Virgin, although rebellious Taíno Indians had lit the splinter.


Bayer, M. / Dominicaanse Republiek

Creed, A. / Dominican Republic
Chelsea House Publishers

Dominicaanse Republiek
Het Spectrum

Foley, E. / Dominican Republic
Times Books International

Froese, G. / Dominicaanse Republiek
Van Reemst

Langenbrinck, U. / Dominicaanse Republiek

Latzel, M. / Dominicaanse Republiek

Stow, L. K. / Dominicaanse Republiek

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated January 2024
Copyright: Team The World of Info