History of The Convent Obra Pía

History of the Obra Pía site

The old city component of the Viceroy Cartagena Hotel & Resort is centered around the magical and majestic 17th century “Obra Pía” convent. The Convento Obra Pía dates to 1640, when it was built by the Franciscan Missionary Order with help from the Spanish Crown. To this day, it is the tallest colonial structure in the old walled city of Cartagena de Indias, which at the time of the convent’s construction was the capital of the Spanish Empire in the New World.

Over the centuries, this Colombian national treasure and UNESCO World Heritage Site has functioned as a convent, a hospital, an army barracks, an orphanage, and, most recently, as a school. Convento Obra Pía was the home and resting place of the Saint María Bernarda Bütler (one of only two Colombian saints in the Catholic Church)—whose life and work will be honored in the restored structure, through a reliquary managed by the Franciscan Missionary Order of Colombia. Once the Viceroy Cartagena opens its doors, the reliquary and original burial site of St. María Bernarda will be open to the public during business hours through a special “Path of Devotion” accessible from the hotel’s Parque Centenario entrance. The hotel’s central library and meeting room will also be dedicated to the St. María Bernarda, and will house her original desk and manuscripts.

Another of the Obra Pía’s claims to historical fame is the presence of its vast cisterns. Considered to be the largest in the New World, these domed reservoirs would catch rainwater in colonial times and provided the only readily available potable water to the convent’s inhabitants and surrounding neighborhood. KIT Capital and Viceroy Hotel Group are committed to respecting and restoring the Obra Pía site’s original majesty, and have actually incorporated the colonial-era cisterns into the final hotel design—converting them to wine & cigar bars, Turkish baths and massage treatment rooms.


Blessed Ruins