Convent of San Francisco

Ourense, Spain

In the 14th century, after the fire that destroyed the first Franciscan convent in Ourense (located in the current Mayor’s Square), the order moved to this place on the side of Montealegre Hill, where they remained until the 19th century. In 1843 the old convent was transformed into infantry headquarters (until its closure in 1984), producing numerous reforms. The most significant of them was the move of the apse and front of the church to St Lazarus’ Park, where it was rebuilt. The orphaned cloister can now be visiedt.

St. Francis’ Cloister has outlived its eventful history retaining the beauty of its 63 arches virtually untouched, all of them decorated with motifs of plants, animals (real and fantastic) and humans. They are distributed around a seemingly square floor: neither side has the same number of arches, which are supported by double columns except the first four and last four in each row. On the side walls, various funeral selpulchres and columns of the chapter house are preserved. It is remarkable the access to the funeral chapel of the Sandoval family, under a festooned arch.

The capitals of the 63 arches of the cloister are a beautiful catalogue of mythological beings, animals and plant motifs carved in stone, made in Romanesque style with great Gothic influence.

The nave of the old church still remains attached to the cloister. In the south side we may find the Chapel of the Venerable Third Order, today transformed into an exhibition space where part of the funds of the Provincial Archaeological Museum are shown. The ensemble comes complete with St Francis’ Cemetery, located in the old convent’s former orchard, and the Auditorium, a spectacular contemporary building which is the city’s heart of the cultural activity. Rehabilitation works are being executed to move here the Provincial Library, what will turn St Francis into Ourense’s great historical and cultural complex.



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Founded: 14th century
Category: Religious sites in Spain

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4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

howard mcfarland (4 months ago)
Great place for a short history lesson, quite interesting and beautiful. Good place to reflect
Mark Auchincloss (11 months ago)
"The gothic cloister of San Francisco is one of the best preserved franciscan cloisters of the transition between Romanesque and gothic styles in Galicia. They're remarkable in their sculpture and architecture. The cloister dates back to 1325-1350 is the most ancient piece of the original convent. It's gothic in style on an irregular floor plan with three series of arcades with double columns on a stone base. The rectangular floor plan of the cloister is defined by paired columns supporting 63 arches with decoration on the spring, capitals and corbels. And 76 paired columns except the last 4 have quadrangular pillars. The work of the capitals is beautiful with Romanesque reminiscences and remarkable nailheads on the large bead moulding's arches. The internal face of the arches presents sculptures of the Apostles Saint James and Peter. In the sculptural decoration of the capitals there are mixed with vegetal motifs, zoomorphic elements, real and imaginary animals anthropomorphic forms and scenes from the old testament, hunting and war. The idea constantly repeated in the cloister is the Christians struggle against the sins portrayed through the scenes of hunting snd fishing. The work of the decorative diamond tops is very refined. On the opposite side of the square is an arcade with 5 arches leading to the chapterhouse reconstructed in the 16th century. The entry is flanked by the figures of the Virgin of the Assumption and Saint Michael. In 1835 the cloister was turned into barracks until the army left in 1987". Although few visit the cloisters it's worth it and is free. The guides are also really helpful and speak English too. Next to it you can also visit a collection of historical exhibits housed in a beautiful exhibition space. Bit of a climb up from centre but not too difficult.
Ignacio Lameiro (2 years ago)
Free entrance, nice hidden gem
Jess RL (3 years ago)
Highly recommended visit in Ourense. Very little known for how impressive it is, it preserves its 63 arches almost intact. Embellished with animal, floral and human motifs. Sample of Galician Gothic with a clear influence of Romanesque
PAUL PEARCE (3 years ago)
Little out of town,but well worth the walking,clean rooms and very nice staff.
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