The Franciscan Order was founded by Saint Francis, a native of Assisi in present-day Italy at the beginning of the 13th century; The Franciscans arrived at Qosqo in the first years of the conquest and settled in the current area of ??San Blas, then in the Plaza de las Nazarenas, in the old Qasana de Pachakuteq palace on the Plaza de Armas and finally in its current location in the Plaza de San Francisco around 1549. It is unknown who was the architect who designed the current structure, although it is known that the one who completed it in 1652 was the Cusco architect Francisco Domínguez Chávez y Arellano who worked as a major bricklayer; The structure of the current church is relatively simple and consists of a single tower with two entrance doors, but it is solid and made of pre-Hispanic andesites. Its original works of art were destroyed by a Prior who «modernized» the church with crude neoclassical plaster works; Its current main altar is neoclassical and made of plaster, it shows San Francisco de Asís in the central portion and the Immaculate Conception in the upper part; There are also 11 other minor altars, all made of plaster, and it also has an old cedar pulpit.
The San Francisco Church and Monastery in Cusco is the oldest in the city with a Renaissance trend and various influences, it has an impressive coffered ceiling; here is a huge canvas that is possibly the largest on the continent and measures about 12 meters high by 9 wide, it was painted by Juan Espinoza de los Monteros around 1699 and represents 12 branches of the Franciscan order that in total contains 683 characters, 224 noble coats of arms and 203 biographical legends. It is also impressive the high choir of the church that was carved in local cedar by the Franciscans Fray Luis Montes, Isidro Fernández Inka and Antonio de Paz, around 1652; this choir contains the images of 93 Saints of the Catholic Church, its lectern is also beautiful, and it has an imposing German organ. There are also innumerable canvases in the various rooms and cloisters, almost all of them anonymous from the Cusco school in painting.
The San Francisco Church and Monastery in Cusco is located in Plaza San Francisco, next to the National College of Sciences.
The San Francisco Church and Monastery in Cusco was built by order of Viceroy Francisco de Toledo in 1572, it had to be restored after the 1650 earthquake. Its floor plan is in the shape of a Latin cross, it has three naves and a high square tower. This construction of stone, lime and pebble had problems in closing its arches and vaults, which by then were closed, leaving one of the bell towers half built to this day.
The Franciscans arrived in Cusco in the first years of the conquest (1534) and settled throughout the Peruvian territory, where they settled in different places for reasons of comfort and needs, the location of the Franciscan congregation in the city of Cusco was given in three foundations, each in different parts of the city:
The first foundation was in charge of one of the first Franciscans who arrived in Peru, Fray Pedro Portugues, who founded the convent house in 1534, north of the city, in what is today, the San Blas neighborhood, the old neighborhood of T’ococachi (salt hole) with the authorization that Francisco Pizarro gave to Fray Pedro Portugués.
Four years after the first foundation, in 1538 the Franciscan Order, through Fray Pedro Portugués, requested their relocation, because they were detached from the city and because of the constant water leaks, they asked Francisco Pizarro to grant them the Q’asana Court. , located in the Plaza de Armas, current Portal de Panes, having said this, the request was granted so the second foundation took place in Q’asana, which was the palace of the Inca Pachacutec.
The second foundation did not meet the expected conditions of comfort and functionality for obvious reasons of greater coverage in its missionary work; It is when a third foundation was promoted at the initiative of the friars Pedro de Algarves and Fernando Hinojosa in 1549, the conqueror Juan Rodriguez de Villalobos gave away the lands that were his property, on which the church of San Francisco would be built, on some platforms agricultural that are conserved in the Santa Clara Street, road axis to Contisuyo and in front of the Cusipata square, because this is a healthy, spacious, dominant place with plenty of water. The documents mention to us that, in the place where the San Francisco Convent is currently located, the San Lázaro hospital functioned, thus the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega gives us to understand in his book that he wrote, the Royal Comments.
The temple at the beginning of this translation was the hospital of San Lázaro, so it was founded, the temple of San Francisco is made of lime and stone with a half-orange vault and three naves. But the latter was destroyed for the most part by the earthquake of March 31, 1650; in such a way that the reconstruction had to be done shortly after that hecatomb. The temple, part of the tower and some corners of the convent galleries were rebuilt.
The new construction of stone, lime and pebble had problems in closing its arches and vaults, which by then were unfinished and later closed, leaving one of the bell towers half built to this day. The church of San Francisco finished construction at the beginning of October 1651, and the translation was made, opening with the feast of San Francisco de Asís on the 4th of that month, and the following year 1652 everything was completed, with its tower.
For the construction of this convent, Andean labor was used, among them we mention the following: Marcos Quispe, who belonged to the parish of Belén and promised to serve as an assistant to brother Pedro de Oquendo, master assembler. Martin Guarí Paucar, who belonged to Oropesa, also agrees to help Pedro de Oquendo. Juan Guarnan, from the parish of San Blas and Pedro Gualcamucha, from the parish of Santiago are hired to make three pilasters. Juan Hernandez, from the parish of Santa Ana, stonemason, to work for a year in all the construction works of the convent with his own tools. Sebastian Inca Roca, from the parish of San Jerónimo agrees to work for a year as an official stonemason and bricklayer. Juan Guarnan, a native of the town of Caicay, was hired for a period of one year to work as a bricklayer in the convent works. Domingo Cosma, from Antabamaba, was hired for one year to work on all the carpentry works in 1649.
Inside the convent there are great works of art such as: Epilogue of the Entire Franciscan Order with an approximate of 650 people, the Choir that stands out in its fine carving in cedar from the 1630s, the library with an approximate of more than 10 000 books from the XV century to the XV century; and these are just some of all the works of art that this great convent keeps.
Inside the convent there is a monumental canvas measuring 12 x 9 meters, on the genealogy of the Franciscan family, made by Juan Espinoza de los Monteros. There are also pictorial works by Diego Quispe Tito, Basilio Santa Cruz, Antonio Sinchi Roca, Marcos Zapata among others. In addition, you can admire the high choir of the church that was carved in local cedar by the Franciscans Fray Luis Montes, Isidro Fernández Inca and Antonio de Paz.
What can you see here?
The current structure of the San Francisco Church and Monastery in Cusco is relatively simple, it has a single tower with Romanesque characteristics in whose bell tower there are 7 bells of different sizes where is the second largest in Cusco and two entrance doors, it has a construction platform in Latin Cross containing 3 naves of basilical type, its facade is of Plateresque characteristics, work made with andesite, stone from pre-Hispanic buildings.
The cloister of the convent is well recognized, which is perhaps the oldest in the city with a Renaissance style and with various influences. It has an impressive coffered ceiling or ceiling decorated with painted boards, in the cloister and the church in general it is decorated with canvases from different periods, one of the authors being Basilio Santa Cruz but mostly anonymous authors of a tenebrist and mannerist style, all belonging to the Cusco school. The museum is divided into three permanent exhibition rooms with paintings from the Cusco School alluding to the life of Saint Francis, sculptures and wood carvings, as well as liturgical ornaments. The collection includes the canvas «Genealogical Tree of the Franciscan Order» by Juan Espinoza de los Monteros, considered the largest painting in America. In the catacombs there are two tombs with human remains of bones and skulls. Some of the femurs are on the wall forming mortuary homily signs “What you are, I was; what I am, you will be ”. Another of the convent’s jewels is its library, with works of great historical value such as a polyglot bible in five languages.
In its rooms, some such as El Reflectorio or dining room, and deep, in the Baroque style, you can see more than 400 works of art from the seventeenth centuries, among imposing paintings that measure 12 meters high by 9 meters wide, all inspired by scenes from the Catholic religion.
A painting of the Last Supper, in which not only is Jesus and his apostles, is the most attractive; and others also by authors such as teachers: Diego de La Puente, Marcos Zapata, Marcos De Rivera, Basilo De Santa Cruz, Juan Espinoza de Los Moteros and others.
Likewise, there is evidence of sculptures, colossal altarpieces, and a library that until now has not been in the inventory process, since it is estimated that 12 thousand volumes of books, 90 percent written in Latin, from the 16th to the 19th centuries.
Do you want to visit the San Francisco Church and Monastery in Cusco?
- Address: Plaza San Francisco (Three blocks from the main square)
- City / Town: Cusco
- Date Created: 1652
- Phone: +51 84221
- Museum opening hours:
- Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and from 3:00 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.
- Saturdays from 9:00 to 12:00 hrs (Sundays and holidays there is no attention)
Cost for the museum:
General Rate: S / 5.00 – National Students: S / 3.00
Church opening hours:
Monday to Saturday from 6:30 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. and from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Sundays from 6:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Cost to the church: Free
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