Basílica Menor y Convento de San Francisco de Asís

CA5
Top Pick
Church / other
Architectural style: Spanish Colonial
CA Ranking: 5
Open: 9am-6:30pm daily
Admission: CUC 2
Oficios e/ Amargura y Teniente Rey, Habana Vieja
  • History & Architecture
    Initiated in its present form in 1716, this religious edifice was the most important symbol of the presence of the Franciscan order in Havana. It is a remake of an original, far simpler church completed by the Franciscans in 1591 but which was seriously damaged by storms in 1680 and 1692, and by a hurricane that toppled its tower in 1694.

    The ground plan was in the shape of a Latin cross, with domed ceilings, a nave supported by twelve huge columns representing the Apostles,
    while its 42 meter-high tower was then the tallest in Havana and the second tallest in Cuba after Trinidad’s Iznaga Tower. It is crowned by a statue of St. Francis of Assisi, whose head was lopped off by a hurricane in 1846. Named by the Pope as a basilica, the church was completed in 1739, extended to the south to a Fransican convent, and was considered Havana’s premier house of worship.

    In 1762, during the year of the British control over Havana, the basilica was used for Anglican services. Thereafter it was considered by the Catholic Church to have been desecrated by Protestants and never again served as a house of worship, although the monks continued to occupy the convent. In 1841, when the Order of San Francisco was reinstated, Queen María Cristina of Spain ordered the closure of the building and the transfer of the members of the religious order. In 1907, the property was purchased by the government and became a warehouse.

    The church marked the starting point for the procession of the Vía Crucis (Stations of the Cross) on Good Friday that led down Calle Amargura and ended at the Iglesia del Santo Cristo, in the Plaza del Cristo.

    For Visitors
    Today the church, with its excellent acoustics, is one of Havana’s finest concert halls, home to the renowned all-female chamber orchestra Camerata Romeu and the venue for a regular series of classical, choral, and contemporary concerts. Although no longer is use by monks, the former convent, with its exquisite storeyed cloisters and serene fern-filled courtyards, is off-limits to visitors.

    The crypt of the basilica is the final resting place of numerous 17th- and 18th-century aristocrats, some of whose remains can be seen in the floor to the left of the nave. A giant figure of Jesus on the cross hangs over the former altar—today a stage for performers. Look closely and you’ll see that the far wall behind the stage, which appears to be an extension of the nave complete with columns and pilasters, is actually a magnificent tromp l’oeil, made more impressive by the fact that the wall itself slants imperceptibly at almost 45 degrees.

    The nave also houses the Museum of Sacred Art, a center for art exhibitions to the south side of the nave, with paintings by José Nicolás de la Escalera and Vicente Escobar, missals with tortoise shell, ivory and hammered silver covers, polychrome wooden images and early marriage registries (one for whites and the other for mestizos and blacks). The armchairs and lectern used by Fidel Castro and Pope John Paul II during the latter’s January 1998 visit to the island are also here.

    The tower is reached via a rickety wooden staircase; brave it for fine views over the city.

     

    Admission details: Church & museum CUC 2; Tower: CUC 1, free under-12s

    
  • Jardines de la Tropical

    Jardines de la Tropical  LH 5

    If you attend any of the concerts that are held here in an effort to save this place from the state of semi-neglect it has been plunged into for many years, it would be a good time to appreciate the m …

    La Zorra y el Cuervo

    La Zorra y el Cuervo  LH 5

    Probably the most well known venue for jazz in Havana, the ‘Fox & Crow’ offers an intimate environment in this basement venue notably marked by a red English telephone box at its entrance. Top jaz …

    Museo de la Revolución

    Museo de la Revolución  LH 5

    History & architecture In 1909, Governor General Aubert decided to build a new venue for the Provincial Government where the old city wall used to be. The design was by architects Rodolfo Marurí ( …

    Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativas

    Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativas  LH 5+

    This museum opened in 1964 and is housed in the house of José Gómez Mena, a mansion designed by the French architects P. Virad and M. Destugué in 1927. Gómez’s sister, María Luisa Gómez Mena, a wealth …

    El Patio (Casa del Marqués de Aguas Claras)

    El Patio (Casa del Marqués de Aguas Claras)  LH 5

    Located on the north-west corner of the former Plaza de la Ciénaga, today Plaza de la Catedral, this mansion stands out from its neighbors due to its wide and spacious portal juts out onto the plaza, …

    Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes – Edificio de Arte Cubano

    Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes – Edificio de Arte Cubano  LH 5

    Edificio de Arte Cubano – The Cuban collection The 30,000 plus pieces that form the Cuban collection is divided into six basic sections: Colonial Art (from the 16th to the 19th century), with a room d …

    Casa-Estudio de José Fuster

    Casa-Estudio de José Fuster  LH 5+

    José Antonio Rodríguez Fuster is a ceramist, draftsman, painter and printmaker. He has made illustrations for several publications, participated in a number of international symposiums and events, and …

    Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro

    Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro  LH 5+

    Designed by Italian engineer Juan Bautista Antonelli and built by slaves with rocks extracted from the moats in the last decades of the 16th century, the Morro Castle to defend the town of San Cristob …

    Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes – Edificio de Arte Internacional

    Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes – Edificio de Arte Internacional  LH 5

    The International collection (Edificio de Arte Internacional) In 2001, after the new venues were chosen for the National Museum of Fine Arts, the international collection was installed in the former C …

    Maqueta de La Habana

    Maqueta de La Habana  LH 5+

    This scale model of Havana is the third largest scale model in the world. It was built at a scale of 1:1000 and spans over 144 square meters. It is approximately 22 meters long and 10 meters wide and …

    « 3 of 22 pages »