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17. San Francisco Church

Here you’re on the busy San Francisco Promenade. The walkway takes its name from the church of the same name, built between 1587 and 1674 on orders by Pedro Mendizorroz, who also owned this site beside the Uroinaga fountain. As well as handing over the land, he paid a thousand ducats and a yearly sum of another 10 for its construction. Despite being located outside the walls, it acquired particular importance due to standing immediately alongside the Royal Road to Castile.

The church has a single nave, a barrel vault and an interesting renaissance altarpiece, the work of Anbrosio Bengoetxea. It also housed an important Theology school for almost two centuries. In times of war, like other churches, it was used as a military hospital and barracks. That’s why the cobbled street leading down beside the church is known as Soldadu or Soldier street.

The church was surrounded by 12.300m² of flower and vegetable gardens. A pelota court was built on the site in 1860, when the movement to sell the land owned by the church was underway. Later, using the convent wall as its facade, the building housing the Provincial Archives was constructed in 1904. These places still exist today, giving us an idea of the enormous area covered by the land.

The General Archives of Gipuzkoa occupy the building nearest the church. They had initially been housed above the sacristy of Santa María Church. However, when more space was needed, the Council commissioned this building from the provincial architect Manuel Etxabe. It was built surrounded with gardens for safety reasons, as a way of protecting the documents in the case of fire in any of the surrounding buildings.

The archives have a storage capacity of 7,100 linear metres, and the collection includes documents issued by the local institutions from the 15th to the 20th centuries.

Alongside it is the Beotibar pelota court, setting of professional pelota games played either with bare hands or with a wicker scoop. It was built in 1890 in the same place as the pelota court used by the Franciscan monks. It didn’t take on its current aspect until 1935. The project, the work of Gregorio Azpiazu, combines cubic and cylindrical surfaces. It is a construction of rationalist architecture and strongly represents the cultural heritage of Gipuzkoa.