São Francisco Square
São Francisco Square in the town of São Cristovão is an open space surrounded by a monumental architectural ensemble. The quadrilateral square measures 51x73 metres.
The most prominent monuments around the square are:
- São Francisco Church and convent (begun in 1693)
- Church and Santa Casa de Misericordia (18th century)
- Provincial Palace
The structures are Spanish-colonial in appearance, as they derived from the Ordinances of King Philip II, at a time when Portugal and Spain were under the same crown. São Cristovão is a river port and a former provincial capital.
Map of São Francisco Square
Sao Francisco square in Sao Cristovao was not much more than a typical square for the area. We weren't even sure we were in the right place but finally found a UNESCO sign on a nearby building. Surprisingly there is a lack of preservation in the surrounding streets though there are a couple of older churches. In all we spent maybe 1.5 hrs there.
it feels like they don't know what they have there. There wasn't any tourist infrastructure at all. We visited late morning mid week. We were the only obvious tourists, foreign or domestic, there were school kids running around the neighbouring streets and everything was closed, including the little tourist info office. It felt safer and cleaner than I expected given the state of northeast Brazil these days but there arent any of the quaint guesthouses or little restaurants catering to visitors you expect to see around a WHS these days.
The easiest way to visit is a side trip from Aracaju, a pretty standard coastal city with plenty of accomodation options. There is a local bus leaving from the old central bus station quite regularly and takes less than an hour. We actually caught an Uber there and took the bus back. For us it was a logical stop as we worked our way down the coast from Olinda to Salvador but unless you are in the area and have time to kill it has nothing to add to the experience of visiting those other beautiful sites.
São Francisco Square is located in São Cristóvão, a small town close to the capital of the State of Sergipe - Aracaju. It is rather an ordinary square, like so many others in Northeastern Brazil, with a simple church and a religious museum on its side. What UNESCO suggested to be extraordinary is that the square was designed in 1590 according to Spanish Ordinations, something unique in Brazil and it was to the fact that, at that time, the Portuguese and the Spanish Crowns were united under Philip II. There's a couple of other 17-Century churches nearby and a humble museum of the State of Sergipe - São Cristóvão was its first capital, and nothing more. It is difficult to understand why UNESCO chose this city to have the same status of Olinda, Salvador or Ouro Preto, majestic colonial cities. If you really want to collect this WHS, Aracaju is well served with internal flights and, by land, is not far away from Salvador.
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