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.References:
Built around AD 90 to entertain the legionaries stationed at the fort of Caerleon (Isca), the impressive amphitheatre was the Roman equivalent of today’s multiplex cinema. Wooden benches provided seating for up to 6,000 spectators, who would gather to watch bloodthirsty displays featuring gladiatorial combat and exotic wild animals.
Long after the Romans left, the amphitheatre took on a new life in Arthurian legend. Geoffrey of Monmouth, the somewhat imaginative 12th-century scholar, wrote in his History of the Kings of Britain that Arthur was crowned in Caerleon and that the ruined amphitheatre was actually the remains of King Arthur’s Round Table.
Today it is the most complete Roman amphitheatre in Britain.