Once we were finished with the Winery tour, our guide and the van driver took us back into Mendoza where we began our city tour in the bright 11 AM sunshine. First up were the ruins of the San Francisco church, all that remains of the original colonial architecture of 'Old' Mendoza. Dating back to 1638 when it was established as a Jesuit school/church, the structure was taken over by the Franciscan order of monks in 1782 following the expulsion of the Jesuits. However, the Franciscan tenure here, along with the remainder of the city, came crashing down in the great earthquake of 1861 which leveled Mendoza, exactly 300 years after it had been founded.
Due to it's mainly adobe construction, the San Franciscan church was almost completely destroyed, except for the few remaining brick walls, seen here being supported by a permanent scaffold arrangement. Mendoza was later rebuilt to the southwest of this area and, even today, you do not see many tall buildings poking up through the trees in case they too have to contend with another major quake.
It was built in 1731 as a residence for the Company of Jesus in colonial Mendoza. In 1798 it was given to the Franciscan order, after the jesuits had been expelled from America by order of the spanish crown.
In one of the church's chapels there was an altar with the Imagen de la Virgen del Carmen de Cuyo and the Baston de Mando del Gral. San Martin (San Martin's command baton), which had been given by the heroe in 1818. From this temple, the image of the virgin was taken in procession to meet the Ejercito Libertador (Libertator's Army) at the Plaza Mayor (now the Pedro del Castillo square) for its proclamation in fron of the Matriz Church. After the 1861 earthquake these relics where rescued from the ruins.
Nowadays the remains of the typical wide walls and arches of jesuit churches from the 18th centeury can be seen. The ruins are being restored so they can stand on their own. The ruins of San Francisco are the only visible testimonies of the colonial time and of the impact of the earthquake that destroyed the city in 1861.
There are guided tours from monday to friday from 9am to 6pm. The guides are the archaeologists that are working there to preserve and study the ruins.
Located in the corner of what used to be the main plaza of Mendoza before the frightening tremor that leveled this city just under a hundred and fifty years ago. The only proof of what this place looked like is through paintings and impression of a few artists. Most were travellers passing through Mendoza only a year ot two before the quake. Still, go and talk to the students on the site...they have lots of very interesting information...The museo del area fundacional can shed some light on that too.
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