Monasterio de San Francisco

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Lima, Peru

Monasterio de San Francisco Lima Reviews

starship1 starship1
37 reviews
Lima's San Francisco Church, Monastery and Catacombs Apr 13, 2014
As previously mentioned, we booked a half-day tour which covered the historical center of Lima. Having just finished a visit to the Plaza de Armas, our group walked a couple of blocks to reach the unmistakable yellow-stone, Spanish Baroque architecture of the San Francisco Church, Monastery and Catacombs. Taking just over 100 years (1673-1774) to complete, the San Francisco religious complex is most probably the second most important religious site in Lima after the Cathedral of Lima.

The church, monastery and catacombs take a considerable amount of time to explore this interesting and multi-faceted place to do it justice. A guided tour of about an hour and a half can be had here and is well worth taking to understand the history here. While I found certain parts of the complex fascinating and beautiful, the catacombs were a little bit macabre to me. Some estimate that 30,000 people were buried here and as you will see as you wind your way along the lighted underground pathways, the deceased' bones were arranged by the monks in patterns according to the bone type. You will find many dusty caverns and niches with displays of preserved bones.

The main church is quite elaborate and has some unique features, and throughout the church, and monastery you find significant religious artwork, including wood relief carvings and an elaborately carved pulpit, but also intricate ceilings and more. As was the case in many countries across the centuries, churches, cathedrals, and monasteries were also centers of knowledge. The San Francisco Monastery is the site of a fascinating 2-story library which houses a magnificent collection of aged books -- approximately 25,000 volumes -- on a wide variety of subjects. Can you imagine how incredible that was in the 17th and 18th centuries? We found the extremely large-size volumes displayed here especially unique. Two symmetrical, iron spiral staircases lead to a second-story gallery lined with bookshelves and the whole library is overhung by a vaulted dome. Windows allowing light into this large space made a world of difference allowing us to see more during the daytime when we visited although we were not allowed unfettered access into the main part of the library -- only just a few steps in to see what we could.

The church architecture features symmetrical bell towers, and behind a lovely and peaceful cloistered garden/inner courtyard is framed by a series of arched colonnades on two levels, a lovely center fountain, gardens and pathways.

After seeing old photos of the beautiful gardens and central fountain which use to grace the front church yard, you may be disappointed as I was to find that today the once beautiful area has been replaced by a dull concrete plaza and fencing which surround a drab fountain. However, the many pigeons which flock here are very reminiscent of another famous church in Venice -- St. Mark's Square.

Admission fees are S/.7 (7 soles) for adults, S/. 3.50 for students. Hours are 9:30 am to 05:30 pm daily.
3 / 3 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
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starship1 says:
Definitely very Baroque Spanish architecture!
Posted on: Apr 19, 2017
spocklogic says:
Very ornate carvings over the entrance door.
Posted on: Apr 18, 2017
starship1 says:
I also fixed the photos, so thanks very much for letting me know about the problem with them!
Posted on: Apr 18, 2017
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Vikram Vikram
301 reviews
Colour, catacombs, a church and LOTS more! Dec 06, 2013
Oh what surprises we run into when we tourists explore a new city!

The monasterio de San Francisco is something you can't ignore. Make no mistake. It's huge, it's got this really gaudy yellow tinge and boasts of some amazing artwork. And yes, you see it from afar and you're thinking "alright, here we go, ANOTHER Lima Cathedral". Make no mistake, it's MORE than just a Cathedral.

The side entrance for tourists leads you straight to a very austere tourist desk where the clerk announces, in almost voicemail recording style the timings of the tours. You have them in Quecha, English and Spanish. Obviously I opted for the English one. And waited in a dark room with clear instructions not to go anywhere else, or TAKE PHOTOS.

The tour started about 20 minutes after I got there, we were around a dozen in the group including some really talkative and squirm'ish ones. We had a very knowledgeable tour guide.

As I was saying, there's more to this place than just a Cathedral. It's a museum, crypt and holy place all rolled into one. And yes, lots of skulls!

The guide walked us to the top floor, walked us through the room where the choir would play (yes, that includes all of them staring at a central notebook, which is they they said Peruvian choirmen had the best eyesight!) and then through the library that contains gazillion books already, and both books and the room are going through somewhat of a restoration programme.

We then walked back to main level for a tour of the various rooms of the Monastery including lots of St. Francis of Assissi, the patron saint of Peru as well (he was from Spain, but Peru "adopted" him!). The rooms were all good to see, including one with rich people buried underneath. And our guide made it all the more fascinating by explaining the significance of each room, including the big dining room.

And then we walked downstairs for my favourite part - the catacombs! I don't think this was as good as the one in Paris simply because it was arranged too well and looked very "proper" as opposed to the Paris one with it just lying around. Apparently there still is lots of excavation going on.

And finally, after the tour was over, we were let into the Cathedral part of this experience (which anyway is free for all). That was a typical colourful vibrant Peruvian experience.

Overall, I'd highly recommend! This was my favourite of the entire day's sightseeing.
The striking yellow stands out in …
Close up of the main entrance
Another closeup
This is the side entrance (where t…
6 / 6 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
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