Convento de San Francisco de Asis

San Francisco ConventOne of the first monastic orders that arrived in Cuba was that of the Franciscans. Around 1570 they were already the protégées of one of the first notables of the town who, at the time of his decease, donated all his possessions with the aim of building a monastery for the order by the harbor of Havana. In 1574 alms began to be collected for the construction. In 1575 the building license was requested of the king and of the Royal Court of Santo Domingo. Finally, by 1584 the work was already advanced, so that we conclude that it was finished before the century was over.

At that time, the area where the convent was built reached to the edge of the bay, so the apse was practically over the water. In the second half of the 17th century a terrible hurricane wrecked the city and caused the loss of the tower, which had been built by the master architect Pedro Hernández of Santiago de Cuba. The façade of the church was also damaged.

San Francisco towerIn the coming years this work would undergo a lot of changes. At the beginning of the 18th century the main chapel was tore down to construct a vaulted transept. In 1730 the façade and the tower were enlarged. In 1738, thanks to the bishop of Havana Lazo de la Vega, the refurbishment of the temple was finished.

When the English took Havana, they used the church as headquarters. Once the island went back to Spanish control, the convent was condemned on the belief that it was impure.

The artistic conception guiding this building answered to the architectural taste of the time. It was mainly an imitation of Doric and Corinthian styles, though it also has elements of an early baroque. The church tower became the tallest in the city and at its top it had a stone sculpture of Saint Francis. The sculpture was destroyed during the 1846 hurricane. The furnishings and ornaments of both the church and convent were also quite remarkable.

In 1608 a chapel was annexed to the convent. This chapel marked the starting point for the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday that ended at the calvary in front of the Iglesia del Cristo. The last procession took place in 1807. The crosses were then removed from Amargura (Bitterness) Street leaving only the one at Mercaderes (Traders) Street. In 1841, by order of María Cristina de Borbón, wife of Fernando VII, the convent and the church were closed down and the altars destroyed.

Adress: Oficios y Teniente Rey