Around the year 1223 AD, the Franciscan Order was established in Porto. In 1244 construction began on Porto's first convent dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi. In 1383AD Dom Ferdinand I commissioned the building of a new larger church. Construction was completed in 1425 in a nonchalant Gothic style, as was typical of the mendicant orders in Portugal at the time. A 13th-century granite statue of Saint Francis of Assisi, standing near the entrance within a Baroque altarpiece, is a remnant of the first St Francis church. Since its conception, the exterior, other than the West portal, has not been extensively altered and remains the best example of Gothic architecture in Porto.
The original elaborate Gothic rose window still adorns the main façade. The South portal is stepped forward from the façade and has a triangular gable decorated with a pentagram. The opening is composed of a series of Gothic archivolts; the inner moulding is decorated with an arcade relief of Mudéjar (Islamic-influenced) design. The cloisters were destroyed by fire during the siege of Porto in 1832. The Palácio da Bolsa now stand in their place. The modest exterior, however, is deceptive. The interior is the most ornate and lushly adorned building in Porto.
During the 15th and 16th centuries, prominent Porto families chose to be buried here and house their family shrines. The Chapel of St John the Baptist in the right transept arm belonging to the Carneiro family is a fine example. It was built in the Manueline style during the 1530s by architect Diogo de Castilho. Most people buried on this site lie in the church's catacombs which house thousands of human remains. The church has a nave with three aisles, the central aisle being the tallest. At the East end of the church, a transept and an apse contain three chapels.
During the early 18th century, the church acquired its most redeeming feature; its Baroque gold guiding. It covers almost every inch of the interior, including walls, pillars, side chapels and ceiling. The gilt woodwork (talha dourada) is adorned abundantly with floral motifs, fruit, frantic animals and cherubs. Over 400 kilos of gold hide the original underlying medieval architecture. A simple white statue of the church's patron Saint Francis (São Francisco), has managed to escape the bling treatment and is all the more striking because of it. Adjoining the church is a museum, housed in the old Dispatch House of the Order (Casa de Despachos) with an interesting Baroque interior.
November - February: 09h00 - 18h00 | March, April, October 09h00 - 19h00
May, June 09h00 - 19h30 | July - September 09h00 - 20h00
€7.50 | Porto Card: - 25%