San Francisco Convent Museum and Catacombs of Lima

San Francisco Convent Museum and Catacombs of Lima

31 August 2023

The church of San Francisco Asís in the city of Lima is one of the most important and most visited religious temples in all of Peru. It is made up of the churches of San Francisco, La Soledad and El Milagro, which are made under baroque architecture of great beauty. Likewise, inside there are fine works and works of art of great historical and economic value. However, what is most striking are its extensive underground cloisters, the catacombs where hundreds of human skulls have been buried since colonial times. Find out how to visit it, what to see, how much it costs and more.


The San Francisco Monumental Complex is a true jewel of colonial art in its various expressions; each corner in its spaces tells us about the transcendent realities and the reason for each one of them, works done with a lot of patience, effort and heart because they were made to teach Franciscan spirituality and to be spaces that allow us to give glory to God.


The church of San Francisco de Asís in the city of Lima

This Christian temple in charge of the Franciscan order is also known as the Basilica and Convent of San Francisco de Lima. It is in the heart of the city center, just 350 meters from Lima's historic Plaza de Armas.


The temple is made up of three churches: the sanctuary of Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, the church El Milagro and the temple of San Francisco. After the founding of Lima in 1535, Francisco Pizarro allocated the land for its construction, which only took place in approximately 1546.


The work has baroque characteristics with a Lima style. The author of this work was the Portuguese architect Constantino de Vasconcellos. The temple boasts a main façade with padding. The other churches have neoclassical facades. At the top there are two huge towers with bell towers in front of a wide square.


What stands out most about this place is its interior profusely decorated with works of art and objects for liturgical purposes of great historical value. His canvases with scenes from the life of San Francisco de Asís stand out.


The temple has numerous cloisters in which the following stand out: the sacristy, the porter's office, the anteporter's office, the vestibule, the main cloister, the chapter house, the litter room, the refectory, the profundis room, the antechamber, the upper cloister, the choir, the extensive library, the convent archive, the cloister of the holy land and, the most famous space in the entire place, the catacombs.


The catacombs are in the underground part of the temple. It was used as a cemetery until 1810. It is estimated that up to that date the bones of more than 25,000 people lay. Its dark, underground galleries are long and, some believe, lead to hidden passages in the historic center of Lima.


Where is?

The church of San Francisco is located in the center of Lima, just 350 meters from the Plaza de Armas.


For its easy location, the church is located at the intersections of the Ancash street (third block) and the Lampa street (first block).


How to get there?

To get to the church of San Francisco from any part of Lima you must follow these steps:

  • From any part of the city, the first thing to do is to arrive at the Plaza de Armas of Lima. To do this, you can take a taxi or public transport bus to Abancay avenue (at the height of the Congress of the Republic) or the Evitamiento road (at the height of the Trujillo bridge).
  • Once in the Plaza de Armas, follow the Carabaya street on foot and then to the right along the Ancash street. There in front is the church of San Francisco.

The treasures of the church

The church of San Francisco has valuable works of art and pieces of liturgical use that have great historical and monetary value since they are made of precious materials, including gold and silver.


Perhaps one of the most valuable treasures is its extensive library with nearly 25,000 volumes. Collections of Aldinas, Elzevirianas and Plantinianas stand out, as well as records and chronicles made throughout the 15th and 18th centuries. It also has works of music, philosophy, history, music and, above all, theology in Latin, Spanish and other languages.


Throughout its rooms there are numerous canvases made by renowned artists in the 17th century. For example, the set of eleven canvases called 'The Passion of the Christ', directed by the famous Pedro Pablo Rubens, stands out. These canvases adorn the 'Profundis' room.


One of the most notable works is the choir stalls made of cedar and manufactured in Costa Rica. It has 130 seats with high relief engravings.


The dark catacombs

During the Viceroyalty of Peru (1542-1824) numerous churches were built. At the base of them, spaces were built to store the remains of the deceased because it was believed that this way one was closer to God. The case of the catacombs of the temple of San Francisco in Lima constitutes the largest cemetery in the entire viceroyalty (only surpassed by the catacombs of Paris).


The crypts functioned until 1810, storing about 25,000 human bodies (bone remains). Currently there are five wells (up to 10 meters deep) that store the accumulated bone remains.


To get to the catacombs, you must go through a series of underground passages whose limit and extension is still not entirely clear. Popular belief holds that it leads to secret compartments of the Government Palace and even the famous Cathedral of Lima.


Currently the catacombs show bone remains grouped in a capricious way to attract the visitor. The tourist tour lasts approximately 30 minutes. This is the great attraction of the church of San Francisco for its gloomy atmosphere.


Church History

The space occupied by the church was assigned to the Franciscan order after by Francisco Pizarro during the act of founding Lima on January 18, 1535.


It was not until 1546 that the construction of the temple began. At first the buildings were simple and poorly worked, so the earthquake of 1655 easily destroyed them. It is so that in those years the commissioner of the order Francisco de Borja hired the Portuguese architect Constantino de Vasconcellos who began the work guided by the plans of the Peruvian Manuel Escobar.


On October 3, 1672, the first part of the work was inaugurated, which was completed and adopted a form similar to the current one in 1729. This building has withstood strong earthquakes such as those that occurred in 1746, 1940, 1966, 1970, 1974 and 2007. Currently this temple offers one of the most solid and ostentatious structures in Peru.


Throughout its history, thousands of bones and skulls have accumulated in its underground passageways, since until 1810 it served as a cemetery. These dark cloisters are currently called 'catacombs' and represent its great attraction.


Other special services

The Franciscan order organizes educational and recreational activities for all people.


Likewise, the San Francisco museum has a shop selling souvenirs on the occasion of the catacombs.


Of course, on Sunday mornings, religious rituals are held for the entire public.


Price of admission

These are the prices of the tourist tour of the church of San Francisco de Lima:

  • Peruvian or foreign adult: 15 Peruvian soles.
  • University student or technician: 8 Peruvian soles.
  • School: 3 Peruvian soles.
  • Children: 3 Peruvian soles.
  • The ticket provides the right to take a tour for 45 minutes in the company of a tour guide.

Visiting hours

From Monday to Sunday from 9 in the morning until 8.45 at night.


Holidays from noon to 8:45 p.m.


The best destinations in Perú

Once you decide to visit Palccoyo Mountain, you could add the best destinations to combine the history and experience for your trip to Peru. Peru offers the most beautiful destinations, culture and naturals. we recommend to extend your holidays and choose these best destinations and prepare your itinerary:

Best Peru Treks


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