Iglesia de San Francisco de la Montaña

Church in San Francisco

This simple stone church, built in 1727, contains nine elaborately carved altarpieces, including the ornate main altar of ash and cedar. Although most colonial altars in the Americas were brought over from Europe, this one was carved by local indigenous people. The eight side altars contain images of the crucifixion and the Virgin Mary with saints as well as portraits of the artisans themselves and prominent indigenous people. Their faces are inserted into religious scenes and onto the bodies of cherubs.

The Retablo de la Pasión de Cristo (Altarpiece of Christ's Passion) includes both symbols with a religious significance – a chalice, a wine pitcher, a pelican piercing its breast to feed its young, and a skull – as well as items with special meaning for local people (three dice, a Spanish sword, a lantern and an hourglass).

The church's original belfry, used by the Spanish as a lookout to monitor the indigenous people and slaves, survived until 1942, when it collapsed without warning.