Iglesia de San Francisco (Church of San Francisco), Mexico City

Iglesia de San Francisco (Church of San Francisco), Mexico City

The church of San Francisco is all that remains of what was once the largest and most influential convent in Mexico City. The sanctuary was established as the headquarters of the first twelve Franciscan friars who came to Mexico after receiving authorization from the Pope to evangelize in New Spain. At its peak, during the colonial period, the monastery complex included chapels, outbuildings, a hospital, and orchards, and comprised a total area of more than 30,000 square meters.

Curiously enough, during pre-Colombian times, this part of the city was occupied by the animal house, a kind of zoo of the Aztec Emperor, Moctezuma II.

The current church on the site is the third one, built between 1710 and 1716. Its two predecessors fell victim to the soft soil underneath and had to be torn down. Although the entire building is known as the San Francisco Church, the actual site on Madero Street is the Balvanera Chapel. To get inside the church one has to walk downstairs quite a few steps because, unfortunately, the building has sunk considerably. For this reason, its main facade is walled in and cannot be seen. Thus, the only way in is via the Balvanera Chapel on the side.

The facade of the chapel dates back to 1766 and is attributed to Lorenzo Rodríguez, best known for his work on the Metropolitan Tabernacle. Inside is an 18th-century altarpiece dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe and the entrance to what was once the Chapel of the Second Station of the Stations of the Cross.

Both the church and the monastery saw a number of historic events in their time. One such was the funeral mass for Hernán Cortés after they thought he was dead in Central America. Following the Reform War of 1858-1861, the monastery of San Francisco, like many others, was disbanded and most of its property was seized by the government. Eventually, much of the monastery was demolished for the construction of new roads. Other parts have survived, proving more expensive to be demolished than to be left standing.

As you explore Centro Histórico, make sure to mark this on your map as an important milestone of the Mexican faith.

Want to visit this sight? Check out these Self-Guided Walking Tours in Mexico City. Alternatively, you can download the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Iglesia de San Francisco (Church of San Francisco) on Map

Sight Name: Iglesia de San Francisco (Church of San Francisco)
Sight Location: Mexico City, Mexico (See walking tours in Mexico City)
Sight Type: Religious
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

Walking Tours in Mexico City, Mexico

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Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.6 Km or 1 Miles

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