The Churches & Convents of Quito

27/Julio/2012 | 15:27

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If there is one mission that is truly impossible in Quito it is to walk through the historical district without passing a church, convent, or chapel every other block.   The churches define Quito’s physical, architectural heritage, offering an iconography that is part of the tourism landscape of Quito.

Because there are so many, here we offer a quick guide to some of the more prominent religious structures of the city.

The Cathedral Church is Quito´s oldest church site, whose grandeur is found in its size.  It borders the entire length of the South side of the Plaza Grande with the names of the original 204 Spanish conquerors of 1534 posted on the outer wall.  Inside is the mausoleum of Antonio Jose de Sucre and burial sites of some of Ecuador’s most important historical figures. 

Adjacent to the Cathedral is the Sagrario Church, which stands where a ravine once cut the city in two.  The church boasts magnificent altars and baroque elements. 

Across the plaza the Conception Church and Convent was Quito´s first feminine monastery and is one of five cloistered convents in the historical center. 

Quito´s most impressive public space, the San Francisco Plaza is named for the San Francisco Church and Convent, home of the first order to arrive in Quito, the Franciscans.  The adjoining Cantuña Chapel offers one of Quito´s most famous legends (the legend of Cantuña).  Sandwiched between both is the beautiful Buenaventura Chapel.

The Compañia Church (Society of Jesus – Jesuits) is perhaps Quito’s most ornate building.  With the interior painted in gold leaf it offers an unforgettable encounter. 

Quito’s other principal plaza takes the name of the religious order whose presence dominates the square: Santo Domingo Church & Convent.  It is home to the Fray Bedon Museum and multiple chapels including the Chapel of the Rosario and Chapel of the Virgin Escalera

Other religious orders that have influenced the architecture of the city include the Mercedario Order, founders of the Merced Church and Convent, and the Augustinians, who have one of the greatest collections of baroque painting by Miguel de Santiago in the San Agustin Convent and Church.  A current restoration of the works is open to the public.

The Carmelite Nuns in Quito have two homes.  El Carmen Alto is the home of the order originally founded in Quito while El Carmen Bajo is the home of the sisters who relocated following an earthquake in Latacunga 300 years ago.  El Carmen Bajo is known for its rich Nativity display and El Carmen Alto is site of the Queen’s Arch and the former home of one of Ecuador´s saints, Mariana de Jesus.

Across from El Carmen Alto is the city museum, and site of the former San Juan de Dios hospital and chapel.  Two blocks west is the Santa Clara Convent, a four hundred year old order in Quito. 

The Santa Catalina Convent and Monastery is another cloistered convent, which is well known for its miracle bench where women wishing to get pregnant often come to sit and pray for the blessing of motherhood.

Moving towards the edges of El Central’s core are the El Tejar, San Roque, Santa Barbara, and San Marcos Churches.

The San Diego Church and Convent is located in the southwest corner of El Centro, next to the magnificent San Diego Cemetery.  At the opposite end, the far northeast section of the historical district, the San Blas Church, located in one of the oldest parishes of the city, was originally a church for the indigenous populations of Quito.

Finally, the Gothic structure known as the Basilica, dominates the Quito skyline and offers unique design elements such as Galapagos animal gargoyles.  It also hosts great views of the city for those who care to climb its towers.


Ciudad Quito

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lbrashear - en Diario HOY - Noticias de Ecuador.