Historic City of Sucre

Since 1991 • Cultural

Sucre, the first capital of Bolivia, was founded by the Spanish in the first half of the 16th century. Its many well-preserved 16th-century religious buildings, such as San Lázaro, San Francisco and Santo Domingo, illustrate the blending of local architectural traditions with styles imported from Europe.

The rich heritage of the historic centre of the Spanish city of Sucre (also known as the city of four names - La Plata, Characas, Ciudad Blanca and Sucre) is an excellent, intact and well-preserved illustration of the architectural blending achieved in Latin America through the assimilation of local traditions and styles imported from Europe.

The city of La Plata was founded by Pedro de Anzures, Marqués de Campo Rotondo, in 1538. Its foundation was a result of mining activities overseen by Gonzalo Pizarro, who was interested in exploring the highland eastern region of the Andean Cordillera. In 1559, the Spanish King Felipe II commanded the foundation of the Audiencia de Characas, with its headquarters in the city of La Plata, to administer the eastern territories. The Audiencia held judicial authority and executive powers and presided over the regions of what are now Paraguay, south-eastern Peru, northern Chile and Argentina, and most of Bolivia. The Spanish city was designed on a simple urban plan, like all the cities founded by the Spanish in the regions of America in the 16th century. The mineral wealth of the nearby city of Potosí influenced the economic development of La Plata, which was also a major cultural centre (Universidad de San Francisco, the Royal Academia Carolina, San Isabel de Hungria Seminario), and the seat of the Characas Audiencia, a forerunner of the present Supreme Court.

In 1609 the city became the seat of an archbishopric, and during the 17th century La Plata served as a legal, religious and cultural centre of the Spanish eastern territories. The first call for independence in the Americans took place in the city of La Plata in 1809. In August 1825 independence was declared and a new republic was born under the name of Bolivia. In the same days the name of the city, La Plata, was changed to Sucre in honour of Mariscal António José de Sucre, who fought for independence from Spanish rule.

The buildings in the city's historic centre are characteristic of 18th-century local architecture, and are similar to those built during the same period in Potosí. More recent buildings (late 18th and early 19th centuries) still have patios, but they are adapted to a neoclassical style brought from metropolitan Spain. The House of Freedom is considered to be the most important historical monument of the country, because it was here that the events that led to the independence of Bolivia took place. It was built in 1621 as part of the Convent of the Jesuits.

On the other hand, many religious buildings bear witness to the period that marked the beginning of the Spanish city, including the churches built by settlers dating back to the 16th century, such as San Lázaro, San Francisco, Santo Domingo, and the Metropolitan Cathedral, the construction of which began in 1559 and was not completely finished until 250 years later. Its architecture displays Renaissance, Baroque and also 'Mestizo Baroque' features. The church of Santa Barbara is the only church in Renaissance style in Bolivia: its interior structure, of neo-Gothic style, dates from 1887. All the churches of Sucre illustrate the blending of local architectural traditions with styles imported from Europe.

Latin America and the Caribbean

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Selected World Heritage Sites