St. Francis of Assisi church


Church of St. Francis of Assisi

To the West of Sé Cathedral is the former palace of the Archbishop that connects Sé Cathedral to Convent, and Church of St. Francis of Assisi.

The structure is built of laterite blocks and is lime-plastered. The church faces

west and has a nave with three chapels on either side, a choir, two altars in the transept and a main altar. To the north of the main altar is a belfry and a sacristy. The convent which forms an annexure to the church, now houses ASI’s museum.

The exterior of the church is of Tuscan Order while the main entrance is in Manuline style. The main altar is Baroque with Corinthian features. There are no aisles but only a nave, which is rib-vaulted. The internal buttress walls, separating the chapels and supporting the gallery on top, have frescoes showing intricate floral designs. In a niche on the facade, stands a statue of St. Michael.

One of the chapels once contained the statue of Our Lady of Miracles brought from Jaffna in Sri Lanka. A wooden statue of St. Francis of Assisi adorns a pedestal bearing the insignia of the Franciscans.

A wooden pulpit, richly carved with floral designs is to the left, as one enters. Beneath a ribbed vault with frescoes showing floral decorations, is the main altar, which is gilded and has a richly-carved niche with a tabernacle supported by the four evangelists.

The tabernacle was used for displaying the Holy Sacrament. Above the tabernacle, in the main altar, is a large statue of St. Francis of Assisi and an equally large statue of Jesus on the Cross. Beneath the two figures are inscribed the three vows of the Saint – poverty, humility and obedience.

On either side of the main altar, in the nave, are beautiful large paintings on wood, depicting scenes from the life of St. Francis of Assisi. The scenes include

(i) an angel revealing to his mother that she would beget a child who would become a great saint,

(ii) his birth,

(m) his first anointment,

(iv) praying at the church of St. Dominica when Jesus commands him to support   His Kingdom,

(v) the Saint taking the oath and joining the Dominican Order,

(vi) his visit to the Sultan of Damascus,

(vii) the Saint showing his wounds to Pope Gregory IX.

In the first floor, on the western side, is the choir, which has amidst carved wooden panels, portraits from Franciscan hagiology. The origin of this church and the attached convent can be traced to the humble beginnings made by eight Franciscan friars, who, on their arrival in 1517, secured from the then Governor a few houses that belonged to a deceased thanedar. By their persistent efforts they constructed a small chapel with three altars and a choir.

A church consecrated to the Holy Ghost was built in 1521, that was later pulled down. The present church was built on the same spot in 1661 retaining only the entrance of the earlier church.

Main Altar, Church of St. Francis of Assisi

ASI’s Mini Circle carried out extensive conservation work in the Church of St. Francis of Assisi. The exterior walls were painted with water-proofing cement paint. The damaged seating arrangement and panel paintings on the northern and southern wail of the choir were dismantled. The wall portion was deplastered and replastered in combination mortar, while the panel paintings were strengthened with marine plywood at their back and refixed to their original places.

The plaster of the entrance wall had peeled off due to humidity and capillary action. The dead plaster was removed and replastered with fresh combination lime mortar. The mouldings and carvings have been maintained to match the original. The cracks in the ceiling near the architectural spring arch at frieze level were grouted by epoxy resin after inserting copper dowels and finally plastered. The eaves of the roof on the northern and southern side have been extended by replacing the decayed wood. GI gutters were provided to drain off the rainwater.

The cellar with the arched opening below the present museum of the convent, which was causing dampness to the entire structure was replastered. The entire blocked portion of the cellar was opened so as to allow air and ventilation and to reduce the humidity level. The walls were provided with fresh lime-plaster after removing the dead mortar applied with suitable colour wash.

The cellar entrance was provided with a grilled gate. The gallery on the southern side, with portrait panel paintings located on the top floor of the quadrangle was provided with aluminium sliding shutters to avoid the paintings getting damaged due to rain showers and dust.

Content sourced from


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here