The San Pedro Claver house museum works in an old colonial cloister belonging to the order of the Jesuits, who arrived in Cartagena in 1604, with the purpose of founding a school, inaugurated in 1605. But only until 1618 was the construction of a new one finished school of greater proportions, with the intervention of the builder Juan Mejía del Valle, which is the cloister where the museum now operates and a small church, replaced by the now known church of San Pedro Claver, which had different names before it received the latter in honor to the saint.
San Pedro Claver Sanctuary Museum works since 1950 in the cloister of the Jesuits of Cartagena de Indias. This space is dedicated to honor the memory of this saint, who in the colony was dedicated to the protection of the thousands of slaves who arrived in Cartagena de Indias. This museum has an archaeological collection of pre-Columbian material and of the colony, one of religious art from different eras, as well as a collection donated by the Zapata Olivella family.
After the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767, the cloister served to house different institutions; in 1775 the hospital of San Sebastián was installed in that place, and in 1861 it became a military barracks.
In 1888, thanks to President Rafael Núñez, Monsignor Eugenio Biffi recovered the school of the Jesuits and the church, so that finally in 1896 this place was again occupied by that religious order.
This cloister, as well as all the walled circuit in which it is located, is part of the set called “Puerto, Fortress and Monumental Ensemble of Cartagena, which was declared a Historical and Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
The Ministry of Culture describes this place in the following way: it has a trapezoidal atypical character, where two main bays are distinguished, with a wide corridor and inner gallery towards the patio, built at the beginning of the XVIII century; and opposite to these, a great side that corresponds to the temple of San Pedro Claver.
It also has a smaller body with two floors, called “republican bay”, which separates it from the current yard of the Navy Museum. The southern bay, located on the Ronda, whose façade is the longest and leans on the wall canvas, has a slight curvature and does not connect at right angles to the eastern corridor, where the Eastern Plaza is located, known as Plaza de San Pedro and where the main access is located. In the articulation of these two an imposing staircase is developed that interrupts the continuity of the gallery and distributes to the mezzanine and the second floor.
It has three floors with a mezzanine on the eastern side and a mezzanine on the south side, its L shape that surrounds an interior garden which gives the circulation spaces of the three levels with arcades; in this garden is the well in which Claver baptized the slaves.
The walls are in masonry, with lime and sand pañete. The floors finished in baked ceramics and cement tile. The mezzanines in wooden beams, planking and mortar paste in lime and sand. Covered in wood with mortar and fired ceramics waterproofed with edil mantle. (National System of Cultural Information (SINIC), 2007). At present, this space serves as a dwelling for the Jesuit community, and the parish office of the San Pedro Claver church, the Afrocaribe Cultural Center and the Conservation and Restoration Center.
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