The San Francisco Monastery is one of Granada's principal antiquities. It was founded in 1529 by Toribio Benevante, a Franciscan clergyman, and named the Immaculate Conception. The friar's name, Motolina, attests to his ascetic life.
The monastery roof, as well as the roof of the attached old temple, is constructed with wooden beams and caña de Castillo and the tiles are made of clay. The facade looks like a immense double balustrade with an ecclesiastical front and only the Franciscan shield hints of religion. The bells are housed in a plain bell gable that is separate from the facade (Nicaraguan style) with the height of a cornice.
The only items that remain from the Colonial Age are the lobby, the stone stairs and the outside walls of the Franciscan monastery.The following four images are located in the church: Virgen del Rosario (the oldest image extant in Granada (16th century), Cristo Crucificado 17th century (named Señor del Rosario), San Antonio (18th century) and the Virgen Dolorosa, originally housed in the cathedral.
The church was recently restored using original materials to preserve its architectural integrity. In 1835 the Central American Federation evicted the religious orders and the monastery became the first university in Nicaragua until 1867 when it reverted to its prior use as a monastery.
Many of the architectural riches can be admired in the following rooms.
A room with a collection of photos of Granada taken at the end of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s depicting life before the advent of concrete and asphalt.
A room with dioramas illustrating the daily life of the natives who lived in this area prior to the arrival of Columbus and tools and crockery uncovered from diggings around the city.
A collection of zoomorphic statues is in the largest room. They were found on the island of Zapatera where they were carved by the pre-Columbus natives between 800 and 1200 A.D.
In another room we learn about the lives of the women between 1700 and 1800: a time when only the women could go to the markets and used coffee beans as money.
One room is devoted to wooden statues with a religious motif. These statues are beautifully decorated and painted and were presented by the kings of Spain to the religious and political authorities of Granada during the Colonial era.
A room with oil paintings on fabric in the Naif School of Solentiname style done by the best Nicaraguan artists. This type of painting is still practiced by many people on the Solentiname archipelago. The Museum of San Francisco is located next to the church and is open from 8:30 to 17:30 Monday to Friday and on weekends from 9:00 to 16:00. Admission is $2 for foreigners, 12 C$ for nationals and 5 C$ for children. The guides speak spanish and english.
The church and adjoining museum are located on the street parallel to La Calzada, one block from the central park. The church is painted blue and a little higher than street level so that one can see it from afar.
The Museum of San Francisco is located next to the church and is open from 8:30 to 17:30 Monday to Friday and on weekends from 9:00 to 16:00. Admission is $2 for foreigners, 12 C$ for nationals and 5 C$ for children. The guides speak spanish and english.