Church and Convent of San Francisco
2016 World Monuments Watch
The Church and Convent of San Francisco forms part of the City of Quito World Heritage Site, the first site ever inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1978. It is the oldest and most significant religious site in Ecuador. The vast complex includes 13 cloisters, three churches, a plaza, more than 3,500 works of religious art, and a library holding thousands of books and historic documents. The convent was built by Brother Jodoco Ricke for the Order of the Franciscan Monks, between 1537 and 1560. The main church, an imposing baroque structure, was completed a century later, together with additional cloisters. The artistic collection grew rapidly through 1755, when an earthquake destroyed the Mudéjar coffered ceilings of the church’s nave. The top sections of the church’s bell towers were destroyed during an earthquake in 1868; they were never rebuilt to their original height.
Today, the complex continues to house Franciscan monks, but also functions as a major cultural and religious center, receiving close to one million visitors every year. The church and convent have been repeatedly affected by seismic movements. In 2002, it was fully restored by the Spanish Cooperation, an undertaking that included the creation of the Sacred Art Museum. In 2012 UNESCO funded the development of an integrated management plan that addresses four main courses of action: conservation and restoration of the architecture, and of the works of art, sustainable tourism development and management, and risk management. Despite the ongoing implementation of the comprehensive management plan, much work still needs to be done, which is why it is included on the 2016 World Monuments Watch. Over half of the religious complex and its artistic collections are still in need of conservation and the site is under pressure to balance religious and tourism uses with continued maintenance.
Hundreds participated in Watch Day at the Church and Convent of San Francisco on February 24, 2017. Activities (featured in this video) included guided tours, workshops, and a photographic exhibition of previous conservation work at the site. Watch Day aimed to celebrate the past works that protected the church and convent, and increase awareness of the need to continue safeguarding the historic site.