⚜️ The Church of San Luis de los Franceses in Seville
San Luis de los Franceses is an authentic jewel of the Andalusian Baroque, formed by the Church of San Luis, the Domestic Chapel and the Crypt.
It is a marvel of eighteenth-century baroque architecture, recently rehabilitated as a museum by the Provincial Council of Seville. It is located on Calle de San Luis, in the Macarena neighbourhood.
History of the temple
San Luis was part of the Novitiate built on the former site of the Palace of the Medinaceli family (which now has a palace at the House of Pilatos) between 1699 and 1730, by the Society of Jesus, so it is decorated mainly with the Saints and devotions of this Order.
Designed by the architect Leonardo de Figueroa, it would be given the name San Luis de los Franceses for the French King, cousin of San Fernando, according to the condition of the family donating the land.
After the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767 and the disentailment in the 19th century, worship was preserved in the church and the novitiate building has had various uses: Franciscan convent, priests’ asylum, hospital… it was the central hospice until the 1960s.
The exterior of the Church. The façade
Its façade altarpiece is highly decorated, with the Solomonic columns standing out. On the upper part of the door, we can see the Spanish coat of arms crowned by the three archangels defending the church.
At the ends of the façade, there are two octagonal towers decorated with tiles, where we can see the Evangelists.
The entrance door is decorated with the images of St. Hermenegildo and St. Ferdinand.
Calle San Luis or the nearby Alameda are very lively areas for lunch or dinner
The interior of the Church
The interior is beautifully decorated by the painters Lucas Valdés and Domingo Martínez. Most of the images and altarpieces in the church are the work of the sculptor Pedro Duque Cornejo.
Above the entrance door, we find some fresco paintings that represent the allegory to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, along with St. Charles Borromeo and St. Francis de Sales, both heavily influenced by them.
On each side are the Three Graces and the Bull of Pope Paulus III, approving the foundation of the Society of Jesus.
The church has a Greek cross plan, above which is a splendid dome, all of which is apparently supported by 16 Solomonic columns.
Between them are lavishly decorated latticed tribunes.
The central dome, with lantern and large windows, is decorated with fresco paintings by Lucas Valdés, representing objects from Solomon’s temple and the Christian virtues that the good priest should possess, such as mortification, obedience, poverty, love of God, religion, love of neighbour, chastity, prayer and humility.
Next to them, illuminated by the windows, are the images of the founding saints of religious orders such as St. Augustine, St. Dominic de Guzman, the prophet Elias, St. Peter Nolasco, St. Benedict, St. Francis of Assisi, St. John of Mata and St. Francis of Paola.
The Main Altarpiece of San Luis de los Franceses
The Main Altarpiece is profusely decorated and is a spectacle of shapes, mirrors, lights and colours, with a large crown on a canopy presided over by a canvas of San Luis, from the school of Zurbarán. Below it is an Immaculate Conception and a painting of the Virgin of Bethlehem with the Child, in the Mannerist style by an anonymous artist.
This set is surrounded by relics and paintings of the Virgin, priestly Christ and Saints such as María Magdalena, St. Ferdinand, St. Hermenegildo, St. John the Baptist, St. Paul, St. Francis, St. Anthony, St. Felix de Cantalicio, St. Pascual Baylón, along with others belonging to the Jesuit Order.
It is located in the old novitiate, separated from the main church. It was a private church with a single nave and is lavishly decorated with frescoed paintings and relics, works by painters Lucas Valdés and Domingo Martínez, along with images by Duque Cornejo.
The Domestic Chapel is a beautiful surprise hidden behind the main temple
Its altarpiece is of rich ornamentation and represents in the centre the exaltation of the Eucharist. Above it is the image of the Virgin Mary, which was given by St. Francis Borgia, on whose sides are the images of Stanislaus de Kostka and Luis Gonzaga. Above the Virgin is the relief of the reception of St. Stanislaus of Kostka at the novitiate in Rome, together with two medallions with reliefs of the preaching of St. Francis Xavier and St. Francis Borgia, which can also be seen in the attic, all works by Duque Cornejo.
In the elliptical dome of the presbytery, we see the fresco of the Exaltation of the Virgin, surrounded by the apostles, the work of Lucas Valdés, another of the treasures of the set.
It has a rectangular nave and on its walls, there are reliquaries next to paintings of the life of the Virgin and the Apostles. See the barrel vault, completely decorated by Lucas Valdés, where we can see the coat of arms of the order and the Evangelists.
It is worth visiting the Sacristy, where we see the back of the altarpiece and two drawers with the same type of decoration.
It is located under the main nave. The bones of numerous corpses have been found here, most of them women, children and men, Jesuit priests, nuns and novices. We can also see the courtyards of the old novitiate, although they have been greatly transformed.
Two courtyards have been extensively renovated, the one closest to the entrance being the most outstanding. It is a veritable orchard where dozens of pots taken from the vaults of the building have been placed, transforming it into a semi-wild archaeological garden.