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World Heritage Site

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São Francisco Square

São Francisco Square
Photo provided by Michael Novins

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


  • Cultural

Community Reviews

João Aender Campos Cremasco Brazil - 15-Jul-11 -

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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Community Rating

Community Rating 1.50. Based on 3 votes.

Site Info

Full name: São Francisco Square in the town of São Cristovão

Unesco ID: 1272

Inscribed: 2010

Type: Cultural

Criteria: 2   4  

Link: By Name By ID

Site History

  • 2010 - Inscribed 
  • 2008 - Referred boundaries, conservation management
  • 2008 - Revision Reduced from former TWHS Les couvents franciscains du nord-est brasilien (1996)


The site has 1 locations.

  • São Francisco Square


The site has 7 connections.


  • Baroque: Church and Santa Casa da Misericordia: "baroque ornamentation" (AB ev)


  • Fusion: Criterion (ii): The Sao Francisco Square represents the outcome of the merging of the modes of territorial occupation and settlement of Portugal and Spain according to which urban settlements were established in their respective colonial empires. This property exhibits an important fusion of urban models, which occurred during the unification under one crown of two rival Empires.

Religion and Belief

  • Franciscans: "The Franciscan complex is an example of the typical architecture of the religious order developed in north-eastern Brazil" (unesco website)


  • Built in the 17th century: "As early as 1615, when the French had been driven out, the Chief Engineer of the State of Brazil,......(drew) up plans for new defences of the liberated town. In addition, he prepared an urban plan, .... as the guide to its expansion and development. It was based on geometric regularity ..... in contrast to the medieval layout of narrow winding streets applied by the Portuguese in Rio de Janeiro, Recife, and Olinda. It was to serve as the basis for the expansion ....By the end of the 17th century Sâo Luis bad a population of some ten thousand," (AB)

World Heritage Process

  • WHC locations: Brasilia (2010)
  • Reduced from broader TWHS: TWHS was originally a serial nomination of the Franciscan convents of North-East Brasil. After a deferral in 2008 the TWHS was reduced to Sao Cristovao alone.