Outside the streets are busy.
Cars beep their horns and minibus conductors shout out their destinations to passersby. Police blow their whistles to try and direct the traffic. “Helados! Helados!” rings out from ice cream vendors pushing wheeled cool-boxes. Throngs block the pavement, waiting for a chance to zig-zag through stationary vehicles. Children play on the steps, rolling, running and clinging to cholitas’ heavy skirts. Tourists take photos of San Francisco church, or confusedly search paper maps, or wander aimlessly in the direction of Sagarnaga, getting sidetracked by souvenir shops and over-priced restaurants.
Inside it’s another world.
Sunshine warms flowers, green leaves and old stone. Under archways, glass panels give a peek at the foundations of an older cloister. Birds flit from branch to path to fountain, while footsteps echo from the balcony above. Brocade-clad angels with avenging swords and golden curls look out from canvases. Metal chalices and religious clothes glitter in glass cases. Imperfectly translated information panels impart the history of Bolivia in terms of the involvement of the Order of San Francisco. A nun dusts off the alter in the dark Basilica, where a staircase leads up to the rooftop with bumpy, uneven tiles.
The bell tower overlooks it all, the outside and the inside, each aspect side by side though belonging to different worlds.
Museo San Francisco
Cost: 20Bs for foreigners
Hours: Monday – Saturday,
Address: Plaza San Francisco Nº 501