Church of San Francisco in Cusco
The church and convent of San Francisco is one of the churches of Cusco, which was built in the seventeenth century as a temple of the Franciscan order. Unlike other churches in the city, it has a simple architecture, with a single bell tower. In its choir are the figures of up to 93 saints of Christianity. The convent is one of its great attractions as it is made up of four cloisters. One of his most famous canvases is ‘Genealogy of the Franciscan Order’, which measures up to 12 meters high and 9 wide, one of the largest in South America.
All about the Church of San Francisco
The church of San Francisco is a Christian temple of the Franciscan order, which was established in Cusco during the colony. It was built between 1572 and 1652 (after the 1650 earthquake). The enclosure includes a convent that includes cloisters, rooms, gardens, squares and catacombs. His canvases that explain the origin and development of the Franciscan order are famous. One of the most famous are: ‘Genealogy of the Franciscan Order’, which is the third largest oil painting in the world.
Where it is located?
The church and convent of San Francisco is located in front of the square of the same name, just a few steps from the Main Square of the city of Cusco.
How to go?
To visit the church and convent of San Francisco, you must walk from the Main Square of Cusco or from any part of the Historic Center of the city. Most tourist hotels are located in this area so it is not a problem to get to the church.
The Incas built their main temples and palaces in the current area of the historic center of the city of Cusco. After the conquest, the Spanish destroyed these temples and in their place built the churches that survive to this day. The reason? They sought to impose Christianity and end the polytheistic beliefs of Andean men. Today, the Andean population, in its bush, practices the Christian religion although they also have characteristics of the Inca religion, such as respect for the mountains and other elements of nature.
After the conquest of the Spanish in Cusco (in the 16th century) the Franciscans arrived in the ancient Inca capital for the construction of a religious temple with an evangelizing function. Initially in the San Blas neighborhood, north of the city center. Later, the temple was moved to the Main Square, in the Inca palace of Qasana. Finally, in 1459, the construction was defined where the San Lázaro hospital (current Square of San Francisco) was located.
The construction of the temple and convent of San Francisco was carried out between 1572 (first works) and 1652 (final construction after the earthquake of 1650). The architect in charge of the works is unknown, although today the participation of Francisco Domínguez Chávez from Cusco is known. Currently, the church and convent offers a museum-like tourist route where the catacombs, their canvases and a library of great proportions and historical value stand out.
The structure of the church is simple. It has a single tower crowned by a bell tower with up to seven bells of different sizes. The interior, with a single nave, has a platform in the shape of a Latin cross where three naves of the basilica type are subdivided. The facade has a Plateresque style, made of Andesite stones, similar to other churches in Cusco.
The convent has a Renaissance style, characteristic of this religious order. Its walls have a coffered ceiling and a ceiling decorated with painted boards. Its structure includes squares with gardens, cloisters, stairs and even catacombs. Part of its structure was donated for the construction of the current National College of Sciences and Arts of Cusco.
The church and temple of San Francisco del Cusco has canvases from the Cusco school where works such as ‘The final judgment’ and ‘Paradise, purgatory and hell’ by Diego Quispe Tito stand out. The main hall of the church is dominated by the sculpture of the Immaculate Conception. However, the main attraction of the church – museum is the painting (in gold frames) of ‘Genealogical Tree of the Franciscan Order’, by Juan Espinoza de los Monteros (in collaboration with his son), which measures 12 meters high and 9 wide (the largest oil painting in South America and the third largest in the world).
The convent is also famous for its catacombs, a set of crypts located below one of the rooms. There it is possible to visualize the skulls of some of the members of the religious order who died there. Finally, the ‘Great choir’ is noteworthy, a room where there is a gigantic choral book made of sheepskin, which has a dimension of more than 1 meter 80 wide. The convent has a harmonious atmosphere, with gardens and silent corridors. It is one of the most visited churches in Cusco.
- Adults: 15 Peruvian soles (5 US dollars, approximately).
- Students: 7 soles 50 cents (2.50 US dollars, approximately).
- Children: 3 soles 50 cents (1 US dollar, approximately).
Hours of Operation
Monday to Friday from 9 in the morning until noon. Also from 3 in the afternoon to 5 in the afternoon.
Saturdays from 9 in the morning until noon.
Photos of the church of San Francisco
The most representative and famous work of the church and convent of San Francisco del Cusco is the canvas: ‘Genealogy of the Franciscan order’. The work visually describes the twelve branches of the religious order, from its beginnings to the time when the work was made: 1699. Each character has their own coat of arms, weapons and legend, which allows a detailed review of the painting.
Inside the church, for an additional cost, you can hire the service of a tour guide, with whom you will visit every corner of the temple. Your guide will better explain the meaning of each canvas and the history behind each space in the place, including the catacombs.
During your visit to the city of Cusco, in addition to the church of San Francisco, take the opportunity to get to know the other religious temples of the city: the church of the Company of Jesus, the church of Santo Domingo (Coricancha temple), church of San Blas, Cathedral of Cusco and more.
A good way to see the ornaments inside the church of San Francisco is to visit it during mass times (Saturdays and Sundays from 7 in the morning and 7 at night). To see the canvases and other objects and spaces of the convent, it is necessary to purchase a ticket (price of approximately 5 US dollars).