The San Francisco Temple & Monastery on Calle Madero was among the earliest and most powerful Franciscan monasteries in the City. The site occupies the former zoological gardens of Moctezuma II, and hosted the first 12 Franciscan friars who arrived in New Spain.
At its peak, the enormous complex occupied everything in the area. It included the first and most important school for the indigenous, and multiple other structures. Today, only the church remains, although the Methodist Church on Calle Gante, and the bakeries on 16 de Septiembre contain parts of the former complex. The Temple of San Felipe de Jesús occupies a plot of land where one of the complex’s chapels was demolished. That temple dates from the late 19th century.
- The southwest corner of the complex was the Chapel of San Antonio. Today, it houses the FCE Bookstore on the corner of Calle Venustiano Carranza. That explains the most distinctive dome on Eje Central.
The church we see today is actually the third to be built on this plot of land, and dates from 1710 to 1716. The entrance and façade seen from Calle Madero was the entrance to the Balvanera Chapel. The main entrance to the church is blocked by construction on Calle Gante to the east. But one may still go inside, through the side chapel. The interior, and especially the altar piece, are dramatic to say the least. The chapel façade dates from 1766.
The San Francisco Temple & Monastery atrium, really the atrium of the Balvanera Chapel is a frequent site for events and exhibitions that spill over from always-crowded Calle Madero.