Convent of Santa Clara of Assisi

Completed Project
World Monuments Watch
Havana, Cuba

Site History and Significance

Havana’s First Convent

The Convent of Santa Clara of Assisi in Old Havana was the first to be built in the city in 1638-43, and except for a brief period as a hospital during the British occupation in 1762, the building served continuously as a convent through 1921. After the government bought the complex in 1923, it was used as government offices and storage facilities.

Our Involvement

1996 World Monuments Watch

The Convent of Santa Clara was included on the 1996 World Monuments Watch to catalyze an effort to conserve the whole of historic Havana, which at the time was in dire need of intervention. The first and second cloisters were last restored in the early 1990s and converted into the headquarters of the Centro Nacional de Conservación, Restauración y Museología (CENCREM). But the complex was abandoned in 2012, when the center was dissolved and the building deteriorated quickly. Santa Clara is located in a dilapidated sector of Old Havana, but it is adjacent to a revitalized district. Its restoration and re-use would continue to serve as a catalyst for further investment in the area. 

Revitalizing an Underserved Area

A collaboration between World Monuments Fund (WMF) and the Office of the Historian of the City of Havana (OHCH) from 2018 to 2023 saw the stabilization and partial restoration of the first cloister of the Convent of Santa Clara, focusing on the building sections and bell tower facing Cuba and Sol streets. The rehabilitation of Santa Clara is part of the OHCH’s ongoing campaign to revitalize Old Havana through restoration and adaptive re-use.  

WMF supported the procurement of materials needed to restore the roof and cloister galleries, which couldn't be locally sourced, and the coordination of two technical courses to build local capacity and aid professional development in heritage conservation. Led by experts from Spain and Mexico, the courses took place at the beginning of 2023 and covered stone and mural conservation. Restoration of the former religious complex will continue for several years. The restored areas, known as the Colegio Santa Clara, will be used as a conference center and lodging for preservation activities.

Learn More

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World Monuments Fund's work at the Convent of Santa Clara of Assisi has been made possible, in part, by support from The Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust, Ford Foundation, Tianaderrah Foundation / Nellie and Robert Gipson, and Martica Sawin.

Last updated: October 2023.

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