Pedro de Valdivia himself established the Ermita del Socorro to house an image of the Virgen del Socorro—to which he credited Santiago ’s survival from Mapuche attacks—that he had brought to Chile. In 1554, in exchange for 12 city lots, the Franciscan order built a church to house the image, but an earthquake destroyed the original structure in 1583./p>
After finishing the present church in 1618, they built a pair of cloisters and gradually added patios, gardens, a refectory, and other structures. Earthquakes toppled the original towers in 1643 and 1751, but Fermín Vivaceta’s 19th-century clock tower has withstood every shock since. The interior is notable for its Mudéjar details and carved cypress doors.
Over four and a half centuries, the Franciscans have kept faith with Valdivia by continuing to host the Virgen del Socorro. In addition, their Museo de Arte Colonial boasts 42 separate canvases, representing the life of St. Francis of Assisi, from the late 17th-century Cuzco school. A later wall-size painting chronicles the Franciscan lineage and their patrons.
The Museo de Arte Colonial (Londres 4, tel. 02/6398737, www.museosanfrancisco.cl ) is open 10 a.m.–1:30 p.m. and 3–6 p.m. Tuesday–Saturday, 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Sundays and holidays. Admission costs US$1 for adults, US$0.50 for children.