Admire the art and architecture of the old Catholic church in Panajachel that is dedicated to the town’s patron saint.
The Church of St. Francis of Assisi is a survivor. The 16th-century Catholic building has made it through the centuries despite several earthquakes that have rocked the area. Although patched up and reconstructed on numerous occasions, parts of the original structure remain to this day. Devote at least an hour to surveying the thick stone façade and the works of art that decorate the interior.
The Church of St. Francis of Assisi was built by the religious order of Franciscans during the Spanish conquest of Guatemala. The ecclesiastical center was used by them to convert the indigenous population to the Catholic faith.
Survey the striking exterior that is topped by a metal cross. Below it is the belfry with two bells and carvings of religious figures. Once inside, your eyes are drawn to the retable, the work of art behind and above the main altar. See the statue of St. Francis at its center. The revered Italian monk was the founder of the Franciscan Order and is the patron saint of Panajachel.
Tour the rest of the church to study its paintings, colorful statues, wood carvings and crucifixes. From one of the old wooden pews with carved arms, look up at the metal chandeliers and the small cross pendants that hang from them.
Come to Panajachel in the first week of October and you are in for a treat. The church is one of the focal points of several days’ worth of celebrations to honor St. Francis. There is fireworks, music, market stalls, fairground rides and dancing in the streets. Watch numerous processions where statues of St. Francis and other saints are paraded through the town atop brightly colored floats.
The Church of St. of Francis is located on Calle Principal, near the Mercado Muncipal, Panajachel's main market. The town can be reached by buses and tourist shuttles from Guatemala City and the cities of Xela and Antigua. Alternatively, take one of the boat taxis that run between the towns on Lake Atitlán.