The Church of San Francisco is the only architectonic work of the XVI Century that is preserved to date. Its construction was originally started on July 5, 1572, when the first stone was placed in the land where the Chapel del Socorro was erected in 1545 by Don Pedro de Valdivia. Its original construction was with a Latin cross floor layout and made in granite block walls. Since the Franciscans did not know about the seismic characteristic of that zone, they made an adobe temple, which was practically completely destroyed in the 1583 earthquake.

The Spanish Crown sent money every year to restore the church, and they managed to build the church again, but the works just ended in 1618. This new temple with a central nave and two lateral chapels did not have the red walls, stone portal or tower that there is today. It was built in white quarry stone. Therefore, the wall stones were extracted from the hills surrounding the city, the wood was from the forests of La Dehesa and the pillars were made with Andes Mountain cypresses. The high tower and its cross was the fist thing you saw when coming in to the capital city.

The church resisted the great 1647 earthquake well, since it was built with stone blocks and with very thick joints and frame. Despite this, the tower was lost, which on falling, brought down the choir that had an expensive ashlar. The reconstruction works started immediately. In 1698 work started in the new tower. Starting in 1703 the convent of San Francisco was considerably extended, the corridors of the first cloister were reinforced and a portal was opened.

A series of repairs were made between 1703 and 1710: the trans-refectory, the pharmacy and the kitchen were finished as well as some decorative remodeling, when the 1751 earthquake came and later the one in 1751, leaving more disasters than the previous quake. This quake caused great damage to the high altar, to the old altar piece and produced the inclination of the tower, making it necessary to demolish it and build another higher one. At the end of the century the temple is extended to three naves.

The main transformations in the XIX Century are the tower and the portal. The tower was re-built by Fermín Vivaceta, who remodeled and constructed the current tower. Its structure and terminations were made in wood with a neoclassical style, closer to the Georgian-American Style. The church still kept its whitewash white color, since it was only in the XX Century when the red-like tone was painted that can still be seen today.

At the doors of the temple, and once the Alameda de las Delicias Boulevard was established that started from the current Saint Martín Street to the temple, the “Pérgola de las Flores,” or Santiago’s flower fair was established, in order to fulfill the great need of the devotees in religious festivities.

Starting from 1940, the temple begins to be restructured due to the number of vehicles circulating by the main avenue. This situation results in the disappearance of the Pérgola de las Flores and the Parque Inglés that marked the extension of Alameda Avenue to the east, both projects were created by O’Higgins. The neighboring blocks were organized and in 1925 a residential zone was established: the current París-Londres neighborhood, beside the church.

The number of structural, architectonic and decorative transformations that the Church of San Francisco has gone through have left their mark as the years go by. However, the four centuries that the Church has remained in the city have allowed it to witness Chile’s history evolution, the progress of its society and the growth and development of our city of Santiago.




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