the great convent of san francisco and the barracks
Visit to the site of the Plaza del Corazón de María in Bilbao, where the Franciscans lived and later the Carlist army
We descend several meters from the ground and a few centuries, until the end of the 16th century, to find out more about the Bilbao site in the Plaza del Corazón de María. At that time there was a convent in the area, that of San Francisco, which would end up giving its name to the neighborhood. «The building stood out in Bizkaia for its size and because it was granted the certificate for the use of the arms of Carlos V, that is, for his imperial title. The land to build it was ceded by Juan de Arbolantxa thanks to a bull issued from Rome by Pope Sixtus IV, in an enclave where there were only vineyards”, explains Itziar Martija, head of Education at the Museum of Reproductions, which manages the visits.
During these cultural events, various construction phases of the complex are contemplated, from the first vestiges of the building to its demolition in the 19th century, and the conversion into the former Príncipe Don Alfonso Barracks, which preserves certain structures. «In the case of the convent, there are remains of the old church, the cloister and the tertiary room. It must be remembered that the Franciscan order was created in the 13th century; there were friars and nuns, but a third category appeared in the 17th century, that of the tertiaries, laymen who wanted to be part of the Franciscan spirit », he reviews.
From convent to barracks
The decline of the building began in the 18th century. To take advantage of it, decide to turn it into a Carlist army barracks until the demolition and birth of the next building. “The rear of the central module, where the staircase is believed to have been, and a well have been discovered,” adds Martija. To transport the public to that moment, during the tour the cicerone goes to images of Bizkaia from the 18th and 19th centuries, the barracks and its structures, the façade… In addition, due to the current closure of the Euskal Museoa, there are pieces from the same like a sequence of shields from Bilbao or the door that San Juan Bautista de Sondika wore, a practical example of what gates were like in the past. Plus the tombstone of the first victim who died as a result of one of the Carlist wars.
After discovering the first vestiges, in 2007 he dedicated himself to expanding the excavation. “During the visit we not only explain the ruins, anecdotes also arise such as that in those years there was a rumor that the Franciscans collaborated with the Carlists, something proven after finding a crucible to melt bullets and other objects of a warlike nature”, comments the guide . Curiously, when she inquired to prepare this appointment, she herself discovered that her grandfather had been quartered there and that her father was a tertiary. “I understood things that she heard at home when she was a child without knowing what they were talking about, the reason why my father regularly went to the parish of San Francisco in Irala,” she admits.
The convent had an important choir in the capital. “His teacher was very good, he composed his own works and at Christmas many people came to listen to his Christmas carol concerts,” he adds.
If you want to learn more about this urban site you can sign up for the guided tours. Reservations, adapted to the needs of groups, must add up to at least ten people (phone 944150231). It is possible to visit the site for free, from Tuesday to Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. In this case, the museum provides information to leave there with the lesson learned.