Chile: Iglesia de San Francisco


From the library we crossed over the road to the Iglesia de San Francisco  a Franciscan church which was consecrated in 1622 and is perhaps the oldest colonial-era building in Chile.   The side facing Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins Avenue street is graffitied:

The entrance is on the side: IMG_6504This shot was taken later on a  night time stroll:   IMG_2413aThe Order of St. Francis settled in Santiago soon after the first colonizers in 1554 and were entrusted with sheltering the Virgen del Socorro, (Our Lady of Perpetual Relief/Helpthe first Virgin Mary icon brought to Chile by Pedro de Valdivia, the conquistador of Chile, who believed it would protect him from Native attacks.   They built a little chapel which was destroyed by earthquake (apparently without damage to the Virgin Mary) and the present-day church was built between 1586 and 1618.

Today that Virgin Mary sits in the high altar.

Basically since the time of building the only modifications done to the church have been to reinforce the structure each time an earthquake has affected it.   ….  With the exception of the bell tower!

The bell tower was destroyed by an earthquake in 1647 and in 1730 the rebuilt tower was damaged in another earthquake. A third tower was built but it too was damaged by earthquake and demolished in 1854.  The current bell tower was completed in 1857  – designed by architect Fermin Vivaceta it features a clock of four spheres.

The organ was installed in 1857..


The pulpito is amazing:

Now for a few of the technical details: Originally the church was built on a cross-shape plan with large stone blocks.  Sometime in the late 1700’s lateral naves were erected changing the cross-like shape to a rectangular shape.  The roof is clay tiles over a wood structure.    The decorated stuccoed ceiling of the nave was done in 1615 and is of Mudejar style.   The door connecting the sacristy with the cloister consists of three panes of carved cypress wood covering a space of 5 x 3 metres.  The choir stalls are also of cypress.  The cloisters walls are made of adobe and the Tuscan-style columns are brick.   There are screens of mahogany and an amazing coffered ceiling (cypress) detailed with flower motives.



10 responses

  1. Another beautiful building Emjay and I admire their persistence in rebuilding after each earthquake. I would have adopted the Aussie philosophy by saying ‘bugger it’ after the first quake and leaving it as a pile of rubble for someone else to clean up.

    • You know GOF – I wondered that. You’d think after the second time the bell tower fell down they’d say “well stuff that – God is giving us a message here”…. but they do earn points for persistence. Hopefully this 4th bell tower is their last.

  2. Oh, the graffiti on the side of the church! I don’t think churches are necessarily more sacred than any other building, but seeing such a beautiful old structure covered in spray-painted squiggles is awful.

    State inspectors just announced that over a thousand public buildings in Los Angeles are not earthquake proof, and some are in danger of crumbling at the first tremor. Since we’re overdue for the next Big One, it’s a real concern for Angelenos. The state and the city don’t want to pour any money into improvements however, nor do they want to demolish all of the flawed structures and build new quake-proof ones. I suppose they could wait until the earthquake does the job for them, but the problem is that earthquakes don’t make appointments, nor do they wait for people to evacuate a building before they shake it to bits.

    • There is graffiti everywhere in Chile; at first I was quite shocked by it being on churches but the people seem to just take it as being “it is what it is” .

      One thing Chile seems to do really well is earthquake-proof their buildings.

    • Yeah – you wouldn’t think I was only there for 9 or 10 days! We’re still in Santiago on wordpress but we also went south to Santa Cruz and then over to Valparaiso on the coast. At the rate I’m going I’ll be home from Australia before I finish being in Chile! And, I haven’t actually gone to Australia yet!

  3. Was that Elvis on the outside? Seems appropriate.

    While reading the story of the many towers full of bells, I couldn’t help but think of the Monty Python scene from Holy Grail where the father was telling the story of his many castles built upon the swamp (which repeated sank in!).

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