The Franciscan Church and Cloisters
This was the first convent of friars in Bizkaia, founded by the lords of Bizkaia in 1357.
The convent of San Francisco in Bermeo is the oldest in Bizkaia according to provincial documentation. The Lordship of Bizkaia, the Count Tello and his wife Juana de Lara gave the order to construct it the 30th of January 1357.
When the Franciscans first arrived to Bermeo, they didn’t find enough space to build their convent inside the town’s walls. Because of this, just as other mendicants in the era did, they built their buildings outside of the towns walls.
In this way the San Francisco convent was constructed in front of the Portal de Ferrerías (entrance of the smiths) with a dowry from the Santa Maria de Alboniga monastery.
In it’s surroundings shipyards and ironworks were built.
Whether for war or expropriation, during the following centuries the convent suffered many modifications.
In 1812 the English burned the façade and the structure suffered serious damages. In 1842 it was turned into barracks, in 1843 into a jail, in 1882 into a school and in 1886 into a courtroom.
From 1928 until the floods of 1983 the cloister was used as a market. Nowadays, the group is made up of the church, the cloister and a part of the convent that has been completely transformed. The church has one nave, a polygonal apse, and is covered with a rib vaulted ceiling. The nave is illuminated by window openings with pointed arcs and the main entrance is florally decorated.
However, the cloister constitutes the most important element of this construction. The cloister is open to the patio by three pointed arcs sustained by decorated pillars in three small columns. The four corners have segmented arches sustained with brackets decorated with repeated figures: friars praying, singing and preaching.
In the flood of 1983 the church and the cloister filled with water. Inside of the church the water reached a height of 2 meters.
Whenever the Franciscans are mentioned in history it is essential to mention Izaro island´s Franciscan convent. The friars got to Izaro in 1422 and stayed there until 1719 when they left to go to a new convent in Forua. Throughout this whole period stories and legends were made, including pirate attacks and visits from King Enrique IV The Catholic (1476) and his wife Isabel (1483).
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