Auditorium – San Francisco Convent
The convent of San Francisco is one of the most important works of the Andalusian Renaissance, but due to a series of misfortunes, it has not reached our days in its entirety. Earthquakes of the 18th and 19th centuries, subsequent lootings by the French during the invasion, and the passage of time have prevented us from enjoying all its grandeur today. The complex was sold during the Confiscation of Mendizábal and the space was occupied by shops, houses, and even a theater, which remained until the seventies of the 20th century.
In this complex convent funerary, Andrés Vandelvira wasted all his genius and created one of the most original monuments of the Andalusian Renaissance. The founding deed (1538) is in the name of Don Diego Valencia de Benavides, the second son of the Lord of Jabalquinto, and his wife, Doña Leonor de Guzmán y Mendoza, daughter of the third Duke of Medina Sidonia. Thus was born the convent of San Francisco, which was not the first to be built in Baeza. In the 13th century, the enclosure outside the walls was located and in 1386 it was taken by the Muslims during the siege of the city. There was still another smaller convent before the religious community settled in San Francisco.
Rehabilitation and improvement works continue. The first phase of restoration of the auditorium ended in March 2022 and provided the building with all the necessary equipment to promote congress tourism in Baeza. In this phase, the humidity that made the stone ugly was also removed. The mixture of the modernity of the screens, the stage, and the lighting and sound equipment does not blur the style and tradition of the San Francisco convent, but rather adapts it to the 21st century.
Chapel of Benavides
The main chapel or Benavides chapel turned out to be the most damaged by the successive misfortunes and only the left side remains, made up of an altarpiece made of stone, with two reliefs that represent the Adoration of the Kings and the Shepherds, and the lower chapels with characters from the Old and New Testaments. This funerary chapel was one of Vandelvira’s great creations and inside the temple, it remains an autonomous element, stylistically different from the rest.
A major disaster, the great Lisbon earthquake of 1755, which was felt strongly in much of Andalusia, cracked the vault of the main chapel and had to be dismantled for repairs, work that was later interrupted by the Napoleonic invasion. The Latin cross church remains and is accessed through a large semicircular arch that frames the entire portal, with a relief of Saint Francis and a tondo with the Virgin, which currently give way to a large auditorium. The convent´s cloister is also preserved, with a staircase with triple arcades and formed on the ground floor by molded semicircular arches on pilasters. The upper area has rectangular windows and two of them are crowned with medallions. Today the cloister is dedicated to hotel use.
Bust of Andres Vandelvira
Outside we can see a bust of Andrés de Vandelvira, the work of Antonio Perez Almahano, which was inaugurated in 2018 to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Baeza’s declaration of World Heritage. The statue of the engineer, which seems to be observing his work, was installed in the free space surrounding what is known as the Ruins of San Francisco. This sculpture intends to spread and recognize the architect´s work, a fundamental figure in the development of Baeza in the 16th century. Andrés Vandelvira was born in Albacete in 1505 and educated by his father, Pedro, who had studied in Italy. He could also have learned from the master stonemason Francisco de Luna since he married his daughter Luisa from him. In addition to this convent, his work is evident in much of Renaissance Baeza. Vandelvira died in Jaén in 1575.