Iglesia de San Francisco de Asis (Havana) August 2019

              The “Iglesia de San Francisco de Asis” was originally a modest building constructed in 1575 by the Franciscan Order. It was demolished in 1719 and replaced with the current one which was completed by 1738 and consecrated in 1739 by the Franciscan bishop Juan Luis Lazo de la Vega and Cancino. It was made in the typical Cuban colonial architecture of the time, in the Baroque style. The bell tower is 40 meters high, the tallest in Havana at that time & the second tallest in Cuba. It’s topped with St.Helen holding the sacred cross of Jerusalem. The English used the church for religious services while they ruled there in 1762. The Catholics never used it again after that as it was considered desecrated by Protestants. However, monks continued to use the convent. The importance of the church at that time made the Plaza it occupied bear its name and today the Plaza is still known as the Plaza de San Francisco. In 1907, the property was purchased by the government to become a warehouse afterwards.
              The church & the convent next to it reopened in 1994 after an extensive restoration executed by the Office of the Historian of Havana. The Cathedral, with a limited capacity for 124 people, is now used as a concert hall for classical music performances on Saturdays @ 6pm & Sundays @ 11am, September thru June. The convent next to the church houses the Museo de Arte Religioso. It’s quite an extensive collection & I was very surprised of the quality & variety of the pieces. For an extra CUC you can climb the bell tower. Do it, you’ll have a great view if the city, especially the harbour & Plaza San Francisco. The convent has a couple of courtyards surrounded by porticoes with furnishings dating back from the time of its inception scattered around. The armchairs that were used by Fidel Castro and Pope John Paul II during his visit in January 1998 are here.
               The Church sits at one end of the Plaza de San Francisco right next to the Malecon. It’s open daily to the public 9am-6pm with a 2cuc entrance fee plus another 2 if you want to use your camera. If you want a guide it’s another CUC. I didn’t use a guide and took a lot of pictures. It’s a very large property with quite a bit to see. You could spend a good hour or more here. I would love to catch a concert here one day. A life-size bronze statue of a once-famous street person known as El Caballero de París stands on the sidewalk in front of the church entrance. Many Cubans believe that touching his beard will bring a person good luck. On the north side of the church is a garden named Jardín Madre Teresa de Calcuta which has been dedicated to Mother Theresa. It contains a small Greek Orthodox Church which was opened in 2004 and a statue of Mother Theresa sitting on a bench.

Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco de Asís
Oficios, e/ Amargura y Brasil,
tel. 07/862-9683,
daily 9am-6pm
entrance CUC2, guide CUC1, cameras CUC2, videos CUC10