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The Iglesia de San Francisco

Other churches we’ve visited: San Felipe Neri | Cathedral in Oviedo | Santa María del Naranco | Cámara Santa

The stunning Iglesia de San Francisco was built in the 18th century, and sits at the very top of the city’s main thoroughfare. After the Metropolitan Cathedral, it’s the most important religious building in La Paz, and because of its advantageous position near the tourist hub of Calle Sagárnaga, probably the most well-known.

Iglesia San Francisco

At first glance, the church could be mistaken for any of its sober European counterparts, but a closer inspection reveals that this is definitely a Latin American place of worship. And more specifically: Andean. The San Francisco was built entirely by indigenous Aymara workers. Left to their own devices, they incorporated a lot of mestizo flourishes into the church walls, which enliven the otherwise austere design. Plain stone walls are frequently broken up by extravagant floral patterns, and symbolic figures such as snakes, ceremonial masks, dragons and birds can be found in the facade.

Our tour took us to the church’s rooftop, where our guide pointed out the irregularly-shaped tiles, and explained that they’re in the “estilo muslera“, or “Thigh Style”. The artisans who made the tiles used their thighs as the mold. Depending on the size of the worker, the tiles could turn out fat and short, or long and thin.

From the roof, we had a great view over the immediate area. The church had been built on the former bank of the Choqueyapu river, whose putrid water now flows underground. The river effectively split the colonial population of La Paz between the Spanish, who lived on the European-style streets around Plaza Murillo, and the Aymara whose twisting lanes and ramshackle houses occupied the west. The Church was popular with the Spanish, but located on the Aymara side, so a separate entrance was built, accessible only from a bridge spanning the river. Mixing with the indigenous population was unthinkable.

Since any visit to the La Paz will frequently take you right past the doors of the San Francisco, it’s worth taking a peek inside for one of the more impressive examples of the Mestizo-Baroque style in Bolivia.

Location on our Bolivia Map

- Hotels and Hostels in La Paz (Book them now!)

Bell Tower La Paz
San Francisco
Art Work San Francisco
Fassad Iglesia La Paz
Inca Art Cathlic
Inca Influence
Inca Face
Doors La Paz
Door San Francisco
Religion Mix
Cholita Iglesia
Art Work San Francisco
La Paz San Francisco
Virgin Mary
La Paz Blog
Cross La Paz Church
Death in La Paz
Dome La Paz
Mestizo
Mestizo Style
Light Of God
Light in Church
Gold La Paz
Golden Angel
Holy Bolivia
Holy Figure Bolivia
Inca Cathlic Church
Inca Signature
Jesus La Paz
Ray of Lights
Bookmark
Golden Robe
Stained Glass La Paz
Church Light
Secret Tunnel
San Fran
Roof Tiles La Paz
Tower Blog
Cross Roof
Liberty Bell La Paz
Bolivia Bells
Church Knot
Hall Way Church
Columns La Paz
La Paz Tour
Hiking La Paz
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July 6, 2011 at 9:49 pm
1 comment »
  • July 7, 2011 at 12:48 amJasmine

    I’m so jealous of your travels! And I’m also in love with photographing cathedral/church/mosque domed ceilings – fantastic.

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