November 21, 2009; 8 PM
Since it's Saturday and we're leaving for the coast early tomorrow morning, I asked Eduardo if there was a church within walking distance where I could go to Mass. He recommended against going back to the Cathedral because although it's not far from our hotel, some of the neighborhoods in between are not so nice.
Instead, he suggested the Iglesia de San Francisco. It's just down the street from the Crowne Plaza, straight down the Avenida de Bernardo O'Higgins (that name still kills me.) The walk only took about 20 or 25 minutes, so I got there very early. That was OK - it let me admire the church.
(I forgot my camera, so thank you, Wikimedia Commons!)
This is the oldest building still standing in Chile. It dates from the colonial era, having been established by the Franciscans in 1575, and it's still owned and run by the Franciscan Order. It's stood through all the earthquakes since then, although according to its Wikipedia page the tower has fallen down and been rebuilt a number of times.
The interior is beautiful and serene, divided lengthwise into thirds:
(photos are from that panorama site I found before; click for bigger.) The central nave faces the main altar, behind a marble altar rail; in the chancel walls you can see irregular stonework where repairs have been made over the years. The seats at the sides of the chancel are called "stalls"; they are where the friars would sit during Mass.
There is a beautiful coffered ceiling, with a dome
admitting light right over the main altar.
The floorboards are laid in a chevron pattern and there are old-fashioned wooden pews with fixed kneelers. Halfway down the nave there is a lovely pulpit designed for preaching in the days before PA systems. There's a gold sunburst on the pulpit's little roof, and you can't quite see it but there is a golden dove hovering there, symbolizing the Holy Spirit.
Noting all these details while listening to the chant piped in over the PA system made the half hour I waited go pretty fast. The priest was a Franciscan, of course, and I could follow the order of the Mass pretty well despite my near complete lack of Spanish language skills. "La paz de Dios" to you all!