Monuments of Curaçao


St. Willibrordus Church


Sint Willibrordus Roman Catholic church was built between 1884 and 1888 in the Neo-Gothic architectural style common for churches built in that period. The design being an input of architect E.K.Margrij, it was constructed by the builder-priest V.Jansen. It was common for priests to be engaged in building activities in those days. The church was the second to be built on the site. The first one was erected in 1849 by the community. Under the inspiring leadership of Monsignor Niewindt, bishop and missionary, who worked from 1824 until 1860 on the island, small parishes were set up throughout the island with a small school and a church. These structures quite often were not more than shelters. Sint Willibrord village was among the first parishes to be founded by the Roman Catholic mission. The church was renovated with the support of the Curaçao Monuments Foundation in 1999.



Curaçao History

Before Europeans set foot on the island in 1499, Curaçao was inhabited by Arawak Indians. A number of archaeological sites found on the north coast in caves bordering the plains and on locations on the south coast near lagoons and tranquil beaches is testimony to this.

To date at least seven Arawak villages were identified. Artefacts found mainly refer to deposits containing pottery, shells, charcoal, tools made of shells, stone and bones, cut ornaments, human graves and rock paintings dating back to the Archaic age (from 2,500 B.C.) and the Ceramic age (from 500 A.D.)

Spaniards seized the island in 1499 in search of gold. When no gold was found, they dubbed Curaçao as one of the islas inutiles, useless islands. Initially, the Spaniards shipped the Indian inhabitants as slaves to other islands in the Caribbean; later on Curaçao was exploited as a rancho for the supply of horses, hides and timber.

Spanish Curaçao as depicted on a map by Francisco de Ruida shows a network of footpaths connecting several settlements such as Poblacion Santa Ana, Poblacion de Santa Cruz and Poblacion de la Ascension, names which are still in use nowadays and which form a legacy of Spanish Curaçao.

The Dutch took possession of Curaçao in 1634. They used the island as a foothold in the Caribbean to support other Dutch colonies in the region. First intended to be developed as an agricultural colony, Curaçao later on was exploited as a slave depot serving the slave trade to other Caribbean islands, and as a production site for salt.

Since the Dutch set foot on the island, with a few minor interruptions in the early 19th century, Curaçao has continuously been incorporated within The Kingdom of the Netherlands as part of The Netherlands Antilles.

17th – 19th Century
Willemstad was laid out as a fortified port town starting in 1634 with the construction of fortified Punda. The districts of Otrobanda, Pietermaai and Scharloo followed in the 18th and 19th century as suburbs outside the town. Together they now make up the Historic Inner City of Willemstad which was designated World Heritage City by UNESCO in 1997.

Outside Willemstad, from the second half of the 17th century onwards, numerous country estates were built as centres of plantations. The country estate complexes were equipped with magasinas and corrals and surrounded by slave dwellings.
To date some 80 landhuizen, more than 50 of which are listed as monuments, dominate Curaçao’s cultural landscape.

19th Century
With the arrival of missionaries in the second quarter of the 19th century, the first villages emerged on Curaçao. Missionary priests established parishes and built churches and school buildings on strategic locations on the island amidst concentrations of rural dwellings. Together with the numerous country estates, these villages with their landmark churches now are an integral part of Curaçao’s cultural landscape.

20th Century
Industrialization was introduced on the island in 1915 with the construction and exploitation of the oil refinery around Schottegat.
Wooden vernacular-style dwellings were built by the refinery workers around the town. For the employees dwelling compounds with a typical tropical lay-out and architecture were established, such as Emmastad and Julianadorp.

These housing districts and compounds qualify as early monuments of the industrial age. International architectural styles entered Curaçao such as Art Deco and Functionalism as demonstrated by the Cinelandia Theatre in Punda and the creation of the Mgr. Verriet Home for Children in Santa Maria district by famous Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld.

Willemstad World Heritage City
Further Reading




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