Next door to the Church of San José is the “Convento de los Dominicos” or Dominican Convent, that is contemporary structure built in the 1530’s. In fact, the Church of San José was originally the chapel for the Dominican Convent and was originally named the Church of “Santo Tomás de Aquino”. It was given its present day name when the Jesuits took over the facilities in 1865.
The Domincan Convent was the first convent in Puerto Rico and it was established 1523 by the Dominican friars. It also provided shelter for the city’s women and children during many Caribbean attacks. In 1865 the Jesuits took over the Convent, but shortly after the Spanish government closed down the building. After the US invasion in 1898, the US Army used the building as its headquarters until 1966.
Today the building belongs to the Puerto Rico Institute of Culture and it houses a small chapel museum on the first floor that displays religious objects and many fine pieces of art. The buildings center courtyard and 16th Century architecture alone make it a worthwhile visit.