Willibrordus Roman Catholic church was built between
1884 and 1888 in the Neo-Gothic architectural style
common for churches built in that period. The design
being an input of architect E.K.Margrij, it was
constructed by the builder-priest V.Jansen. It was
common for priests to be engaged in building activities
in those days. The church was the second to be built on
the site. The first one was erected in 1849 by the
community. Under the inspiring leadership of Monsignor
Niewindt, bishop and missionary, who worked from 1824
until 1860 on the island, small parishes were set up
throughout the island with a small school and a church.
These structures quite often were not more than
shelters. Sint Willibrord village was among the first
parishes to be founded by the Roman Catholic mission.
The church was renovated with the support of the Curaçao
Monuments Foundation in 1999.
Before Europeans set foot
on the island in 1499, Curaçao was inhabited by Arawak
Indians. A number of archaeological sites found on the
north coast in caves bordering the plains and on
locations on the south coast near lagoons and tranquil
beaches is testimony to this.
To date at least seven
Arawak villages were identified. Artefacts found mainly
refer to deposits containing pottery, shells, charcoal,
tools made of shells, stone and bones, cut ornaments,
human graves and rock paintings dating back to the
Archaic age (from 2,500 B.C.) and the Ceramic age (from
Spaniards seized the island in 1499 in search of gold.
When no gold was found, they dubbed Curaçao as one of
the islas inutiles, useless islands. Initially, the
Spaniards shipped the Indian inhabitants as slaves to
other islands in the Caribbean; later on Curaçao was
exploited as a rancho for the supply of horses, hides
Spanish Curaçao as
depicted on a map by Francisco de Ruida shows a network
of footpaths connecting several settlements such as
Poblacion Santa Ana, Poblacion de Santa Cruz and
Poblacion de la Ascension, names which are still in use
nowadays and which form a legacy of Spanish Curaçao.
The Dutch took possession of Curaçao in 1634. They used
the island as a foothold in the Caribbean to support
other Dutch colonies in the region. First intended to be
developed as an agricultural colony, Curaçao later on
was exploited as a slave depot serving the slave trade
to other Caribbean islands, and as a production site for
Since the Dutch set foot
on the island, with a few minor interruptions in the
early 19th century, Curaçao has continuously been
incorporated within The Kingdom of the Netherlands as
part of The Netherlands Antilles.
17th – 19th Century
Willemstad was laid out as a fortified port town
starting in 1634 with the construction of fortified
Punda. The districts of Otrobanda, Pietermaai and
Scharloo followed in the 18th and 19th century as
suburbs outside the town. Together they now make up the
Historic Inner City of Willemstad which was designated
World Heritage City by UNESCO in 1997.
Outside Willemstad, from
the second half of the 17th century onwards, numerous
country estates were built as centres of plantations.
The country estate complexes were equipped with
magasinas and corrals and surrounded by slave dwellings.
To date some 80 landhuizen, more than 50 of which are
listed as monuments, dominate Curaçao’s cultural
With the arrival of missionaries in the second quarter
of the 19th century, the first villages emerged on
Curaçao. Missionary priests established parishes and
built churches and school buildings on strategic
locations on the island amidst concentrations of rural
dwellings. Together with the numerous country estates,
these villages with their landmark churches now are an
integral part of Curaçao’s cultural landscape.
Industrialization was introduced on the island in 1915
with the construction and exploitation of the oil
refinery around Schottegat.
Wooden vernacular-style dwellings were built by the
refinery workers around the town. For the employees
dwelling compounds with a typical tropical lay-out and
architecture were established, such as Emmastad and
These housing districts
and compounds qualify as early monuments of the
industrial age. International architectural styles
entered Curaçao such as Art Deco and Functionalism as
demonstrated by the Cinelandia Theatre in Punda and the
creation of the Mgr. Verriet Home for Children in Santa
Maria district by famous Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld.
Willemstad World Heritage City