The order of the Franciscans in Guatemala dates back to 1525. In 1540 they had a simple monastery with five monks in Cuidad Vieja. In the new capital the monastery grew in number to eighty monks. By the end of the 1600’s, grounds owned by the Franciscans were very extensive.

 

Apart from the usual areas of the main monastery, there was also a hospital and clinic, and above all, its facilities for scholars. 

 

 
     
 

The library was one of the most complete of its time; it had a productive publishing house, the second one to be established in the city; and the order founded the San Buenaventura School for theological and philosophical studies.

 

Destroyed in 1773, most of the ruins of this huge monastery still remain, and even some part covered with modeled stucco and traces of painted murals have been conserved. Its fountain is found today in the courtyard of La Merced in Antigua.

     

Apart from a chapel restored in the early 1800’s to shelter the remains of Pedro de Betancur, the church of San Francisco was not really restored, but rather reconstructed.

 

This aroused much controversy and vigorous criticism from historians and architects who want to see colonial monuments conserved in their original form.

 

The church was built by Diego de Porres and inaugurated in 1702.

 
     
 
     

Its facade, with twisted salomonic columns, is typical of the Spanish-American baroque; it has sixteen vaulted niches, each one containing a saint or a friar. The altarpieces inside the church were richly decorated with painting and sculptures of famous contemporary artist.

 

Two of these are still found in San Francisco; the others have come from elsewhere. San Francisco is one of the most visited churches if the county became it enshrine the remains of Hermano Pedro de Betancur, Guatemala’s cherished saint who was beatified in 1980. Thousand of pilgrims come every year begging for favors and miracles.

     
 

 

 

 

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