The raised former open chapel is the older of the two structures, to the right of the church overlooking the atrium. An arcaded front projects like a bay window, each of its three arches framed by an alfiz carved with vines, angels' heads and the Franciscan emblem of the Five Wounds.
But the most prominent sculptural features of the chapel are the paired angels above each archway. Similar in style to the posa reliefs at Huejotzingo, they hover in mid-air, their robes flying out behind.
On the side arches the angels hold up the Stigmata, and above the center arch they flank an inscribed plaque surmounted by a freestanding carved crown. A monogram of Christ, encircled by a crown of thorns, is affixed to the keystone—a later addition.
The more expansive church front boasts a Plateresque inspired porch modeled on other Franciscan doorways—like Otumba and Tepeapulco. Decorative spiral columns divide the broad jambs of the doorway which display finely carved, complex grotesque style reliefs.
Finely carved panels of birds, animals and demonic heads decorate the jambs, while complex reliefs with winged angels, rosettes and slotted speech scrolls project at the springing of the arch. An unusual braided molding, carved with entwined foliage, follows around the flattened archway.
The double-framed niche above the doorway, carved with cherubs and giant tassels on the outer frame and featuring a zig-zag inner arch, houses a statue of the patron, St. Francis.
Inside the church, more grotesque reliefs embellish the sanctuary arch, which in turn frames an attractive 18th century gilded altarpiece with painted scenes from the life of St. Francis.
text and images © 1990 and 2019 Richard D. Perry