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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.