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CHURCH AND CONVENT OF SAN FRANCISCO

(SAINT FRANCIS)

The Franciscan Order was founded by Saint Francis native from Assisi in present-day Italy, toward the beginning of XIII century. The Franciscans arrived to Qosqo by the first years of the conquest and were located by the San Blas district, later in the Nazarenas Square, in the ancient Qasana palace belonging to Inka Pachakuteq in the Main Square and finally in their present-day location over the San Francisco Square toward 1549. It is not known who the architect was that designed the present-time building; however, it is known that Francisco Dominguez Chavez y Arellano, a Cusquenian architect who worked as the chief mason finished it. The structure of the church is relatively simple and has just one tower and two gates, but it is solid and made with andesites from pre-Hispanic buildings. Its original artworks were destroyed by a priest that "modernized" the church with coarse neoclassical plaster-made artworks. Its Major Altar is neoclassical and made in plaster having a Saint Francis of Assisi effigy in the central part and above it is the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception. There are also 11 other minor altarpieces, all of them made in plaster; it has an ancient cedar wood pulpit too.

Its convent cloister is the oldest in the city and has a renaissance style with diverse influences. It has an impressive ceiling decorated with painted panels. Over here is an enormous canvas that is possibly the biggest in the continent measuring about 12 mts. (39 ft.) high and 9 mts. (30 ft.) wide; it was painted by Juan Espinoza de los Monteros toward 1699. That painting represents 12 branches of the Franciscan order containing 683 personages, 224 coats of arms and 203 biography legends. What is also impressive is the church's high choir that was carved in local cedar wood by Franciscans Fray Luis Montes, Isidro Fernandez Inka and Antonio de Paz, by 1652. That choir contains images of 93 Saints of the Catholic Church; its lectern is also very nice, and has an imposing German organ. More over, there are many more canvases in the different rooms and cloisters; almost all of them anonymous from the Cusquenian School of painting.