El Conquistqdor Francisco de Orellana

El Conquistqdor Francisco de Orellana
The Conquistador who put the Amazaon baisn "on the map"....Francisco Orellana

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Churches & Convents of Quito

The central historical district of Quito will be the scene of the city's largest, public religious celebration during the upcoming Holy week (April 1-8th). The events, whether musical, gastronomical, or artistic, will occur in a city that, throughout its history, has been a fundamentally religious one.

Visitors cannot walk through El Centro without passing a church, convent, or chapel every couple of blocks. The structures define both Quito's intangible and it's physical, architectural heritage, offering an iconography that is part of the tourism landscape of Quito.

In the coming weeks, get to know the city's religious structures, the reason for which Quito was named a UNESCO world heritage site.

The Cathedral Church is arguably Quito's oldest. Its grandeur is found in its size as it borders the entire length of the south side of the Plaza Grande. The names of the original 204 Spanish conquerers are posted on the outer wall. Inside is the masuleum of Antonio Jose de Sucre, and burial sites for some of Ecuador's important historical figures.

Adjacent is the Sagrario Church, built on top of a ravine that cut the city in two, it 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 home to the San Francisco Church and Convent is home of the first order to arrive in Quito, the Francisans. The adjoining Cantuña Chapel offers one of Quito's most famous legends (the legend of Cantuña) and sandwiched in between is the beautiful Buenaventura Chapel.

The Compañia Church is perhaps Quito's most ornate. Painted in gold leaf it offers an unforgettable encounter and is attached to the Metropolitan Cultural Centers, a structure with another rich history.

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 archititeture of the city are the mercedarios, founders of the Merced Church and Convent, and the Augustinians who have one of the greatest attractions of baroque painting in the collection of works by Miguel de Santiago found in the San Agustin Convent and Church.

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 former home of one of Ecuador's saints, Mariana de Jesus. Across from 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. Around the outskirts of the central core of Quito 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 Cemetary. 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 Basillica dominates the Quito skyline offering magificent views and a quirky national touch: Galapagos animal gargoyles.


1. Cathedral Church

2. El Sagrario Church

3. La Concepcion Church & Monastery

4. San Francisco Church & Convent

5. Buenaventura & Cantuña Chapels

6. La Compañía Church

7. Santo Domingo Church & Convent

8. Chapel of the Rosario & Chapel of the Virgin Escalera

9. La Merced Church & Convent

10. San Agustin Church & Convent

11. El Carmen Bajo Church & Convent

12. Santa Barbara Church

13. San Roque Church

14. Chapel of the Old San Juan de Dios Hospital (city museum)

15. El Carmen Alto Church & Convent

16. Santa Clara Church & Convent

17. Santa Catalina Church & Monastery

18. San Marcos Church

19. San Diego Church & Convent

20. El Tejar Church & Convent

21. San Juan Church & Monastery

22. Basilica Church

23. San Blas Plaza

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