São Francisco Church and Convent
|São Francisco Church and Convent of Salvador|
Convento e Igreja de São Francisco
Square in central Salvador and façade of São Francisco Church
|Direction of façade||Northwest|
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 ornate Church of the Third Order of Saint Francis sits adjacent to the convent. The friars of the Franciscan Order arrived in Salvador in 1587 at the invitation of Dom Antônio Muniz Barreiros, third Bishop of Bahia. The Franciscans soon built a convent and church, but these were destroyed during the Dutch invasions of Bahia in the 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.
The convent and its church are important colonial monuments in Brazil. It was listed as a historic structure by the National Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage in 1938. The convent, church, and Church of the Third Order are integral parts of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Historic Center of Salvador.
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 church consists of a nave and chancel; transept; choir; lateral corridors; a vestibule which serves as an entrance; a sala do capítulo, a large cloister; which serves as a meeting room for the order; sacristy; library; and numerous rooms that serve the convent.
The main façade faces a large rectangular square, the Largo do Cruzeiro, with a large stone cross. The façade shows influences of Mannerist architecture through the Jesuit Church of Salvador, among other buildings. Like the Cathedral of Salvador, it has three portals and two flanking towers. The upper part of the façade (gable) is flanked by elaborate volutes. The center of the monumental pediment has a statue of Saint Francis of Assisi in white marble. It is now covered in layers of paint and placed in the niche at the end of the first half of the 18th century. A relief of the coats of arms of the Franciscan Order is placed above the statue. The smooth tiles covering the towers are also from a later period and serve further to accentuate the main body of The façade was originally in dark sandstone. Tiles were added at a later period to "to accentuate the main body of the façade".
The cloister of the São Francisco Church and Convent was constructed between 1707 and 1752. It consists of two stories. Stone was ordered from Boipeba Island in present-day Cairu, Bahia, to construct the cloister by Frei Alvaro da Conceição. The cloister is circled by arches supported by stone columns. Monumental blue-and-white azulejo tile panels were placed around the entirety of the cloister in the final period of construction; they were inspired by the prints of the Flemish artist Otto van Veen (c.1556 – 6 May 1629). The azulejos depict moralistic allegories with sayings by the Roman poet Horace. The azulejos were manufactured in Portugal, arrived in Bahia between 1743 and 1746; their installation was completed in 1748. The cloister served as a place for meditation, community gatherings, interior processions, and other liturgical activities.
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 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.
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