São Francisco Church and Convent

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São Francisco Church and Convent of Salvador
Convento e Igreja de São Francisco
Square in central Salvador and façade of São Francisco Church
São Francisco Church and Convent is located in Brazil
São Francisco Church and Convent
Location of the Catedral Basílica de Salvador
Basic information
Geographic coordinates 12°58′29″S 38°30′33″W / 12.9746°S 38.5091°W / -12.9746; -38.5091
Affiliation Catholic
Rite Roman Rite
Municipality Salvador
State Bahia
Country Brazil
Direction of façade Northwest
Designated 1938
Reference no. 86

The São Francisco Church and Convent of Salvador (Portuguese: Convento e Igreja de São Francisco) is located in the historical centre of Salvador, in the State of Bahia, Brazil. The convent and its church are important colonial monuments in Brazil.

The friars of the Franciscan Order arrived in Salvador in 1587 and soon built a convent and church, but these were destroyed during the Dutch invasions of Bahia in the early 17th century. The works on the current convent began in 1686 under Father Vicente das Chagas following a grandiose design that took decades to complete. The current church was built between 1708 and 1723, but the interior was decorated by several artists during a great part of the 18th century. Most decoration of the church and convent were finished by 1755.


Nave of the church. Note the exuberant golden woodwork that cover all surfaces
Ceiling decoration
Interior of the church

The Church of São Francisco of Salvador is unusual among Franciscan houses of Northeast Brazil in that it has a nave with three aisles, while most other Franciscan churches of the region have only one aisle. Three lateral chapels are located on each of the lateral aisles. The church has a rectangular shape without protruding transept arms and a main chapel. The floorplan seems influenced by the São Francisco Church of Oporto (actually a Gothic building) and the Jesuit plans of São Roque in Lisbon and the Jesuit Church of Salvador.

The main façade, which faces a large rectangular square with a large stone cross, shows influences of Mannerist architecture through the Jesuit Church of Salvador, among other buildings. It has three portals and two flanking towers, and the upper part of the façade (gable) is flanked by elaborate volutes.

Crossing and main chapel of the church. Note the wooden panels with paintings on the ceiling.

The most important characteristic of the church is its exuberant inner decoration, mostly executed in the first half of the 18th century. All surfaces inside - walls, pillars, vaults and ceilings - are covered by golden sculpted gilt woodwork and paintings. The altarpieces display the typical Solomonic columns and concentric arches decorated with golden foliage, angels and birds, while the vaults of the aisles are covered by wooden panels with paintings. Blue-white tile (azulejo) panels, by Bartolomeu Antunes de Jesus and imported from Lisbon, cover the lower parts of the walls of the main chapel and transept and depict scenes of the life of St Francis of Assisi. The decoration of the church is considered one of the most complete and imposing in Portuguese-Brazilian Baroque gilt woodwork art (talha dourada), being a perfect example of the "golden church" (igreja dourada).

The convent of São Francisco is also an important repository of Baroque art. The wooden ceiling of the entrance hall (Portaria) was painted with scenes in illusionistic perspective by José Joaquim da Rocha in 1774. The two-storey cloisters, finished around 1752, were decorated with monumental blue-and-white tile (azulejo) panels. The tiles, with moralistic allegories based on 17th century-Flemish engravings and sayings by Roman poet Horace, were manufactured in Lisbon.

Protected status[edit]

The São Francisco Church and Convent was listed as a historic structure by the National Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage in 1938. The structure was registered under the Book of Historical Works, Inscription no. 1 and Book of Fine Arts, Inscription no. 11. The directive is dated March 31, 1938.[1]


  1. ^ Carrazzoni, Maria, ed. (1980). Guia dos bens tombados (in Portuguese). Rio de Janeiro, RJ: EXPED-Expansão Editorial. pp. 56–57. ISBN 9788520800577. 

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