The parish of San Nicolás de Bari in the outside walls

By: Msgr. Ramón Suárez Polcari

La parroquia de San Judas Tadeo y San Nicolás de Bari

It was in the parish of St. Nicholas that I grew up and trained as a Christian; that’s where I celebrated my first mass. It originated in a small chapel dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary, which was founded and built by a neighbor of the place called Don Nicolás Nantes, with the pious intention of serving the spiritual good of the sitieros of that country portion of Havana of outside the walls known for Los Sitios de San José.
In 1802 the hermitage was practically destroyed as a result of the fire of Jesus Mary; only the sacristy that became local for worship was saved, pending a future reconstruction of the property. After more than forty years, just in 1943, a public collection began to erect a new temple, which was completed in 1848 under the patronage of Saint Nicholas of Bari. Bishop Francisco Fleix y Solans blessed him on February 26, 1854 and on that same date he was erected as a parish under the patronage of the holy and much-revered Bishop of Bari.
But why was this title given to her and not the original of Our Lady of the Rosary? In my opinion, the gesture responded to the wishes of the Sitierians, who wanted to thank Don Nicholas for his own temple.
The first priest to be at the head of the parish, with the position of interim priest until 1860, was the priest Don Juan Galeán Riquelme. The first baptism settled corresponds to that of the child Antonio Cesáreo Sebastián and was celebrated the day after the inauguration of the parish.
Following the good example of his predecessor, the illustrious Bishop Espada, in 1853 Archbishop Fleix and Solans arranged the use of the sacristies of parishes, chapels and schools for the vaccination campaign against smallpox. A year later, the hermitage of St. Nicholas also entered the vaccination plan with the purpose of serving the neighbors of that extramural neighborhood where it was inserted and that over time had grown.
Over the course of just over thirteen years, the distribution of parishes according to the classification established by the Royal Certificate of 1853, experienced a growth in number and condition. The development experienced by the parish of San Nicolás de Bari motivated Bishop José María Martínez to place it in the group of term parishes, a title that lasted until the final years of the Second Vatican Council.

Description of the temple

The church is small, with a single latin cross plane nave and two smaller ones on the cruiser. It also has a small bell tower, sacristy and parish house attached to the temple. The building is framed by the strange confluence of San Nicolás, Rayo and Tenerife streets, and the alleys of Reunion and Holguin. San Nicolás is the longest of the streets of the outside walls and at one time it was called San Cayetano.
To the left is the altar of Saint Marón (Lebanese saint), where for many years of the twentieth century the Eucharist of Maronite rite was celebrated, because many Lebanese and Syrians lived in the slum. To attend to this part of the parish community, at least three priests of this Eastern cult came, among which he stood out, Archbishop José K. Aramuni, a moor of this important Lebanese rite.

Changing the headline

Former parish members tell this nice version about the change of holder. Being Archbishop Silvio Montaña Pradera, parish priest, he asked a very influential subject of the Government one of the Lottery awards to undertake some parish works. Approved the application, he was awarded one of the most substantial stimuli and announced on the radio that it had been won by the parish of San Nicolás de Bari. But it happened that the parish priest of the town of San Nicolás, very happy and surprised with the news, quickly presented himself to collect the prize. He showed all the papers that credited him as the owner of that church, signed the documents, collected the prize and returned to St. Nicholas of Bari.
When Msgr. Mountain arrived at the Lottery Board, he learned the sad news. Without being able to rescue the prize and rather grumpy, since the other parish priest did not agree to renounce his right, he wrote to Rome to request the change of holder. This happened in 1954.

Mapa Barrio San Nicolas
Fragment of a map of Havana from 1853 framed the old neighborhood of San Nicolás according to what the Municipal Ordinances of 1855 express, its church is located – already – within the circle.

In letter to Cardinal Manuel Arteaga, Msgr. Montaña showed that devotion to the Apostle Judas Tadeo, whose image was on the high altar, had increased markedly in recent times. He further explained that the existence of two parishes with the same holder of Saint Nicholas of Bari had been causing both, and particularly his own, constant and incalculable damage and very regrettable confusion, so it was desirable to change employers. The application was accepted and from February 26, 1954, in celebration of the centenary of the parish erection, it was renamed St. Jude Tadeo and St. Nicholas of Bari.
It did not take long for the Holy Apostle to leave the Bishop of Bari behind in popular devotion. From 1961 on, the participation of the faithful who wanted to participate in the different masses of October 28 was increased. This massive influx has not diminished. St. Jude Tadeo is not synchronized with orichas of the Yoruba pantheon, but Catholic popular piety considers him an apostle of the difficult causes, and even more so, of the impossible.
The parish came to have two Spanish coadjutor priests as parish priests; it also had several members of the Brotherhood of the Blessed Sacrament and the four branches of Catholic Action.
In 1960 Msgr. Montaña traveled to Spain and did not return anymore. The new Archbishop of Havana, Archbishop Evelio Díaz Cía, gave the parish to the Escolapio Fathers, who until today attend it. In the years of the Council, the then parish priest, Miguel Magri Barrera, made some structural changes to the side altars and ceiling coffering.

Some places in the slum corresponding to the parish

In the first decades of the nineteenth century there was a street that ran from East to West called Closed from the Sites of San José. It is said that he owed his name to the end of Peñalver’s pleasure and because the owners of that point of outside walls who dedicated it to San José, handed it over to some black (free) from Carraguao, who formed sites or conucos. The owners were no other than the aristocratic Habanera family Peñalver and Cardenas. Among its members it is worth highlighting the illustrious cleric Don Luis Peñalver y Cárdenas, who became the first bishop of New Orleans and, later, Archbishop of Guatemala; his sister, the Countess of Peñalver, determined the demolition of the ingenuity they owned there and oriented the division of the land into small plots for farming and plot sites to build houses.
La Quisicuaba or Chaval de los Quisís corresponds to the part of the Neighborhood of the Sites from San Nicolás street to the west. The Quisís was an African nation from which slaves entered Havana from the first half of the sixteenth century. It was the place designated by the Habanero Cabildo to the black horros to cultivate the lands, to have them more at hand and to exercise in them the necessary vigilance, because according to documents of the time, except with few exceptions, they did not make good use of the acquired freedom. Located half a league from the city, the place was named after the end of 1559. They then moved to the Ward of Christ in intramurals. It was mercyd by Don Antón Recio called el Mozo (Mocao) and which encompassed almost everything that was later the neighborhood of the Sites of San José known, too, as the site of Antón Recio.
The stream of Antón Recio crossed the current road of Infanta and followed its course to the neighborhood of Los Sitios, passed under a bridge on the Calzada del Monte and exited at the bottom of the bay confused with the glen of San Nicolás that was called the Drain. At the crossroads with the path of the sites existed the bridge of Padre López, named after the Pbro. Don Justo López Barroso had his house there around 1815.
Los Indios, a town in the Los Sitios neighborhood where some Indians owned farmland, stretches from San Nicolás Street to the east of the city.
Calle del Indio or Peña Blanca del Indio is a certain elevation that crosses with Calle del Rayo. De la Torre speaks of a Mexican Indian named Don Tomás Curiel, who had a tavern on that corner.

Demajagual, whose name indicates a forest of tropical trees known to majaguas, has been known since 1569 for the request made to the lobby by Isabel Sepúlveda, who asks for a mercy of a mountain “in front of the Demajagual”.
In the same year, Diego de Miranda requested a cavalry of land for conucos, “on the left side of the road that goes to the Chorrera, relieves with stay of Juan Griego and by another band the sea and Ciénaga del Demajagual”. This swamp was called the Mangrove.

Hermitages in parish territory

This area is shared by the parishes of Jesus Mary and St. Nicholas.
In January 1574, the Habanero Cabildo received from the neighbors Francisco Dávalos and Alonso Rojas the request for land to build a hermitage dedicated to San Sebastian. After more than a century, the first church of Our Lady of Guadalupe was built in that same area.
The Hermitage of Guadalupe is dedicated to this advocation of the Virgin by Francisco Cañete. Originally (1716) it was made of wood and thatched roof. Bishop Lazo de la Vega helped to remake it and build it in masonry and shingles in 1738. He became and appointed her assistant of the parish major on December 24, 1739, with the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Francis Xavier, and appointing him as chaplain to the lieutenant priest Don Simón de Torres. It was located on the road of Monte in front of the Rock, between the alley of Sigh and the street of the Eagle. In 1762 it was sent to take down by the builder of the castle of Atarés, the brigadier of engineers Don Agustín Crámer, considering it dangerous given its strategic location. Today we do not perceive it, but this area has an elevation with respect to Old Havana (intramurals), from which cannon batteries could be placed by a possible English invasion.
The one of San Luis Gonzaga, erected in 1751, is located at the crossroads of the Queen’s Causeway and that of charity or Belascoaín. It was destroyed in 1835 when they built the Paseo de Tacón (Carlos III).
The parish of San Judas Tadeo and San Nicolás de Bari currently borders the parishes of Jesus, Mary and Joseph; of the Basilica Minor – diocesan shrine of Our Lady of Charity – and of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and St. Ignatius of Loyola (Queen). Ω

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