In the year 1589, 4 years after João Pessoa was occupied by the Portuguese, the Franciscan Order founded a mission there. Back then, the presence of the Catholic Church was a very important indicator that the regions in the new world were civilized enough to receive European settlers.
Today the Cultural Centre of São Francisco is a perfect representation of the Baroque in Brazilian architecture.
The complex is composed by the Monastery and Church of St. Anthony, the Chapel of St. Francis, The Chapel of St. Benedict, the Golden Chapel and the Cloister of the 3rd Order.
At the courtyard stands an imposing cross. The sidewalls are decorated with tiles called "azulejos", especially imported from Portugal.
The interior is magnificent, with richly gilded altars and painted ceilings.
In 1634 it was taken by the Dutch and used as a fortification. Between 1885 and 1894 it was used by the government as a Marine Base and military hospital.
Today the Church of St. Francis and St. Anthony still serve their purpose on special occasions, like weddings or baroque concerts, but the whole cultural complex is today a museum, with a gallery of popular art, religious art, archeological pieces, exhibition halls, library and a restoration centre.
They offer guided tours but you can also explore it on your own.
Monday to Friday 8:30 am to 5:00 pm
Saturday and Sunday 9:00 am to 2:00 pm