Religious Colonial Buildings in Honduras
Honduras was under Spanish colonial rule for over three centuries. During that time, it was part of the Colony of New Spain, administered by a Viceroy based in Mexico City. The colony was so vast, that a Captain General assisted the viceroy with his job. The Captain General was in Guatemala and was responsible for 7 Central American provinces. These provinces included Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Chiapas and Soconusco. After New Spain became independent, 2 provinces stayed with Mexico and the other 5 seceded from Mexico.
There are many colonial buildings in Honduras that remind us of our time as a Spanish Colony. The most plentiful and outstanding are religious buildings. The Catholic priests ordered many different church buildings built. The most magnificent are without doubt the colonial Cathedrals in Comayagua and Tegucigalpa. Comayagua was much more important in those days. But Tegucigalpa had the most significant silver mines in Central America. Both of these colonial buildings are unique and worth visiting.
In downtown Tegucigalpa, you will find another fine example of colonial buildings in Honduras. Next to the National Congress building you will find the Church of Mercy. This church is part of a larger complex that includes what was once a monastery. The monastery later became the first university in Honduras. It is now home to the National Art Gallery of Honduras. Both are buildings are worth visiting.
Military Colonial Buildings in Honduras
There are two different colonial buildings in Honduras that are a result of military efforts to protect the territory. As you know, Honduras has over 600 km of shoreline along the Caribbean Sea. The Caribbean was where the European countries established colonies to attack and plunder the Spanish and Portuguese galleons. These ships were laden with treasures headed to the homeland. Although Spain first claimed most of the Caribbean Islands, it lost many of them through the years. Such is the case of Bahamas and Jamaica to the Brits. The French took over half of Hispaniola and established Haiti. The Dutch settled in Curacao and Aruba. To defend their territory, the Spaniards where forced to build military fortresses.
Honduras has two major colonial fortresses within its territories. They are both on the Caribbean Coast of the country. These two colonial buildings in Honduras are the most ambitious military endeavors that the Spaniards built in Central America. I am referring to the Fortress of Santa Barbara in Trujillo, and San Fernando in Omoa.
The Fortress of San Fernando de Omoa
Of the two, the largest and most impressive is without doubt the Fortress of San Fernando in Omoa. Omoa is close to the modern Port of Puerto Cortes. The Fortress is in a large and deep bay and is next to an old colonial town. This building is huge, and besides being a fortress, it has served as a military jail. Today it is a national monument under the administration of the Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History. A small museum is next to the impressive fortress. This impressive colonial building in Honduras was built between 1759 and 1777. The order to build the fortress came from King Ferdinand VII of Spain. The structural integrity of this building is outstanding. As you roam its expanse, you will imagine scenes when the pirates and buccaneers roamed the Caribbean.
Omoa is on Highway CA13, between the Corinto Border with Guatemala and Puerto Cortes. By car, you can reach it from San Pedro Sula within an hour. Many travelers exploring Central America cross into Honduras from Guatemala after having visited Rio Dulce and Livingston.
The Fortress of Santa Barbara in Trujillo
The other military fortress is Santa Barbara in Trujillo. This building sits high above the Caribbean commanding a view of the magnificent Bay of Trujillo. This was the easternmost outpost controlled by the Spaniards. To the east lies the Moskito Coast, which was a British Protectorate during colonial times. It is also south of the Bay Islands of Honduras, which at times were also under British Rule. This colonial building did not have the same luck as San Fernando. Most of its original structure deteriorated over the years.
Perhaps its biggest claim to fame is the fact that William Walker, the infamous American Filibuster. He was put before a firing squad and executed within the fortress. The Fortress of Santa Barbara underwent a restoration process with support from Spain a few years ago. This was part of an effort to commemorate 500 years of Columbus’ landing in Trujillo! Colombus actually landed in the Bay of Trujillo during his fourth and last voyage in 1502! This colonial building is older that the fortress in Omoa, and dates to 1550.
With the remains stabilized and a modern roof was put in place to protect them. Inside, a nice museum depicting historical aspects of Trujillo is open to the public. The Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History manages the Fortress. A visit to Trujillo without a walk throughout this historic building is not complete! Trujillo was the first Spanish settlement in Honduras. Yet it does not have any other colonial buildings to show!