The gran escalera or the main stairway is the access path connecting the ground and second floors and it is one part of the monastery complex that always awes. Maybe it is because of the impressive brick vault atop, said to have special acoustical characteristics, the solid and wide granite slabs and everything in it that gives one a feeling of being transported to some bygone era.
Over the years, this part of the monastery had cracks and parts were disfigured. The copula used to be octagonal but in 1863, it was changed into circular by the Architect Luciano Oliver when repairs were finally done. It is 30 meters in height and the vault is 8 meters in diameter.
The 44 granite steps, popularly called piedra china, are 3 meters long and were bought from Canton in China, part of a series of shipments that were later used in other parts of the monastery, other churches as well as the streets of Manila.
Left, the ornate archway carved on the adobe blocks with geometric designs framing the path to the gran escalera. This arch, right, used to be covered with paletada (whitewashed with lime) and painted but were later stripped to expose the stone during the renovations done in the 1970s, just like what was done to the rest of the walls, ceilings (except the trompe l’oeil) and facade of the church-monastery complex.