Museo del Convento de San Francisco (San Francisco Convent)
The Museo del Convento de San Francisco, or San Francisco Convent, has a rich heritage and its existence is testimony to its importance to the people of Granada. The San Francisco Convent is attached to the church and both structures were first erected in 1525, along with the rest of the city of Granada. Unfortunately this city was plagued by pirates who plundered cities and burnt what they were not able to take with them. This led to the burning of Museo del Convento de San Francisco in 1665 and again in 1685. The people of Granada enjoyed a short-lived peace period in which they rebuilt their beloved city and tried to regain all they had lost. In 1856 William Walker and his group of mercenaries attacked Granada. Everything was lost yet again, including the church and the convent. The people of Granada had courage and, despite years of turbulent pirate raids and attacks on their city, they started to rebuild their city once again. The destruction to the convent was devastating and all that remains of the original structure is the outer walls, the vestibule, part of the tower and the launching slips.
What makes the San Francisco Convent one of the most popular attractions in Nicaragua, is the ancient catacombs that are located underneath the convent and church. Priests and other citizens of Granada have been laid to rest here from 1546 and it is estimated the remains of approximately 75,000 people are located within the walls of the catacombs. Layers of bones can be seen here, including a strange well that is filled with neatly arranged skulls and femur bones. The library has a staggering collection of books, photos and paintings that are memory to the violent history of Granada and its citizens that rose like the Phoenix from the ashes, to rebuild the city every time they were attacked.
The statues that are located here are beautifully crafted and have been dated to between 800 to 1200 AD. It is thought that they were sculpted by the earlier primitive inhabitants of Zapatera Island, which is situated in Lake Nicaragua. Even though some are weathered by the elements, the detail is still clearly visible on many of the statues.
A trip to the Museo del Convento de San Francisco will confirm why it is one of the most visited attractions in Nicaragua. With its story of tragic destruction, amazing courage, fascinating relics and atmosphere of unbreakable strength, the San Francisco Convent will allow visitors to travel back into the time where Granada fought for its existence and won through persistence and strength of character.