Colonial Quito, Quito

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  • Colonial Quito
    by MalenaN
  • Colonial Quito
    by MalenaN
  • Colonial Quito
    by MalenaN
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    Iglesia y Convento de Carmen Bajo

    by MalenaN Written Feb 5, 2014

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    Convento de Carmen Bajo was originally not founded in Quito, but in Latacunga in 1669. Almost 30 years later the convent was destroyed in an earthquake. What was left was later taken to Quito and the convent was rebuilt there between 1718 – 1726. In 1745 it was inaugurated.

    The remains of José de Sucre were kept here for many years until they were moved to the Cathedral in the beginning of the 20th century.

    The church is open 8 – 12 and 15.30 – 17.

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    Iglesia y Monasterio de Santa Clara

    by MalenaN Written Feb 4, 2014

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    Iglesia y Monasterio de Santa Clara
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    The Church and Monastery of Santa Clara was founded in 1596. There is no access to the monastery and the church was never open when I passed by (but hopefully next time I go to Quito).

    I like the look of Santa Clara where it stands at the top of Plaza de Santa Clara. It is a quite plain whitewashed church with two doors facing the square. The bell tower is rather small.
    I have always seen Santa Clara with the square in front of the church, but here on VT I have seen a photo showing that there used to be buildings there only some years ago.

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    Vertical Garden on the edge of Centro Histórico

    by MalenaN Written Feb 1, 2014

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    I have not seen many vertical gardens so it was a nice surprise to see one near Banco Central and Plaza San Blas. The wall looked lovely with plants in different greens and some red colours as well. I had walked this way in 2011 and 2012 too, but had not noticed the green wall then, maybe I was not observant, or maybe it is new.

    There seems to be more vertical gardens in Quito and I just read that the largest one in America can be found at Scala Shopping Mall in Cumbayá.

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    Arco de La Reina

    by MalenaN Written Feb 1, 2014

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    Arco de La Reina, Quito
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    Arco de La Reina (Queen’s Arch) is a yellow and white arch built over García Morena, at Rocafuerte. It is situated next to Monasterio de Carmen Alto and was built in the 18th century to give shelter to churchgoers when it was raining. The original entrance to the centre of Quito was once where Arco de La Reina is standing.

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    Centro Cultural Metropolitano

    by MalenaN Updated Dec 29, 2013

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    Centro Cultural Metropolitano
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    Just off the western corner of Plaza Grande is Centro Cultural Metropolitano situated. It is housed in a beautiful restored colonial building which was a Jesuit school between 1597 and 1767, and later it was used as army barracks. At Centro Cultural Metropolitano there are usually temporary exhibitions on display. When I visited they were setting up a photo exhibition at one of the inner courtyards with photos from Machu Picchu. You can also walk around quite freely, just admiring the architecture.
    In the building you can also visit Museo Alberto Mena Caamaño, but I didn’t.
    _________________________________________________
    Update 2012: When I visited in June 2012 there was a very nice photo exhibition in Centro Cultural Metropolitano with photos from all over Ecuador.
    This year I visited Museo Alberto Mena Camaño and I will write a separate tip on that museum.
    _________________________________________________
    Update 2013: When I visited this year there was a photo exhibition with sports motives, sports practiced in Ecuador. I also saw an advertisement of a free concert in the cultural centre, but when I came there the room was already full and lots of people were standing in the doorway.

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    Iglesia y Convento de San Diego

    by MalenaN Written May 11, 2013

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    Convento de San Diego, Quito
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    The Monastery of San Diego is situated southwest of Centro Histórico. It is a lovely monastery from the 17th century, full of outstanding colonial religious art. There are works from both the Quito school and the Cusco school, and there are paintings, sculptures, furniture etc. It is absolutely worth a visit even if it is a little bit further away from many other places in Centro Histórico.

    There were no other visitors here when I visited. I was shown to the different rooms and the church by a man who gave me some information, but then left me for a while to let me have some own time before he took me to another part of the monastery. Photography was allowed in the lovely courtyard and in the church, but not in the art exhibition rooms, so even if I was left alone there I didn’t take any photos.

    Admission was $2 (August 2012).
    San Diego church and monastery is open on Monday – Saturday, between 9.30 – 13 and 14 – 17.

    A taxi from Plaza Grande to the Monastery of San Diego was $1. The first time I came here (the monastery was at that time closed for renovation) I realised it was not far to walk back to Plaza Grande. I asked a policeman standing in the corner if it was safe to walk in this part of town and he said no, I should take a taxi so I did.
    The next time I visited I talked to a policeman about La Cima de La Libertad because a taxi driver had refused to take me there, saying it was not safe. The policeman also advised me not to go there. However he said it was safe to walk back from San Diego to Plaza Grande, not down along Rafael Barahona, but to the left along Chimborazo (and then to the right), because they had a policeman in every corner that way (at least that day). So, this time I walked.

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    Convento de San Agustín

    by MalenaN Written May 10, 2013

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    Convento de San Agust��n
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    Next to Iglesia de San Agustin is the San Agustin Monastery. It is housed in a large building from the 17th century, set around a nice courtyard.

    I got a guided tour in Spanish when I visited. The tour started in the arched corridor around the courtyard where there are several large paintings depicting the life of San Agustín. They are made by the painter Miguel de Santiago. When you are here don’t forget to look at the ceiling which is very beautiful.

    We then continued to Sala Capitular, where the signing of Ecuador’s declaration of independence took place on August 10, 1809. Below Sala Capitualar there is a crypt where many of the heroes of Ecuador’s struggle for independence are buried. The crypt is only open on August 2 (many of the freedom fighters were killed on August 2, 1810) so during this tour I could not see it. However, it happened that I was in Quito on the 2nd of August too, so when I passed San Agustin I decided to go inside and have a quick look at the crypt (on August 2 there is no admission).

    On the second floor there is a collection of colonial religious art, like paintings and sculptures. In this part photography is not allowed.

    San Agustin Monastery is open on Monday – Friday between 9 – 12.30 and 14.30 – 17, and on Saturdays between 9 – 13.
    Admission was $2 (June 2012).

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    Visiting the Palacio del Gobierno

    by MalenaN Written May 8, 2013

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    Palacio del Gobierno, Quito
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    The large white building on the north-western side of Plaza Grande is the Presidential Palace, Palacio del Gobierno (or Palacio de Corondelet) . It has a long balcony with arches and columns. Originally there was a palace built on this site in 1650, which functioned as the governor’s office. However, it was burnt down in 1920, but it was immediately rebuilt.

    Since 2007 the palace is open for visitors and there are several guided tours daily, mainly in Spanish, but also in English. When the government is in session, the palace is closed. When the Palacio del Gobierno is open to the public you will see people queuing outside the building. Be sure to bring your passport or identification card, without it you will not be let in. I visited in July 2012 and the queue moved quite quickly. When you enter there is a security check, but you are allowed to bring your bag and camera inside.

    The guided tour started in one of the courtyards where there was an exhibition of woodcarvings. In the stairway to the second floor there is a large mural depicting Francisco de Orellana’s descent of the Amazon. This mural is made by the famous Ecuadorian artist Guayasamin. On the second floor we visited several of the staterooms, one of them Salón Amarilla where there are portraits of all presidents of Ecuador. Around the courtyard several of the gifts Ecuador has been given by other nations were on display. We also went out on the balcony, above the arched balcony below. From this balcony you have a very good view over Plaza Grande and the Cathedral.

    The guided tours are free.

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    Monasterio y Iglesia de La Concepción

    by MalenaN Written Apr 28, 2013

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    Iglesia de La Concepción is situated in the north corner of Plaza Grande. It is quite easy to miss this church and just walk pass as there is no tall bell tower.

    The church and monastery of La Concepsión was founded already in 1577. It was founded by a group of women to protect the orphans and widows of the Spanish conquerors.

    Sometimes when I have passed the church it has been open and when I visited Quito in 2011 I did take a photo of the interior, but when I came home I had lots of photos of different church interiors and I couldn’t remember which one was which. When I visited in 2012 I just took one photo of the exterior.

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    Iglesia de Santa Barbara

    by MalenaN Written Apr 27, 2013

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    Iglesia de Santa Barbara, Quito
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    Iglesia de Santa Barbara is situated a few blocks from Plaza Grande. It is a quite modern church with few antique items, but historically it has been an important church. Iglesia de Santa Barbara was originally constructed in the 16th century and was then one of five churches within the city. The church had to be reconstructed after damages caused by an earthquake in 1987.

    Iglesia de Santa Barbara is open:
    Monday – Friday 8.30 – 17
    Saturday 17 (mass)
    Sunday 8.30 (mass)

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    Plaza de la Independencia

    by toonsarah Written Jan 12, 2013

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    Plaza de la Independencia
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    As in all Spanish colonial cities, at Quito’s heart lies its main square, the Plaza de la Independencia. Also known as the Plaza Grande, it is an attractive green space with the memorial to independence at its centre, plenty of benches for resting and people-watching, and is surrounded on three of its four sides by attractive old buildings. These are:

    On the southwest side, the cathedral
    On the northwest, the Palacio de Carondelet, the President’s Palace and seat of government for the republic
    On the northeast, the Archbishop's Palace and the Palacio Hidalgo, built as a private residence (the only one of these that still remains on the plaza) for Juan Diaz de Hidalgo and now the Hotel Plaza Grande

    On the remaining southeast side are municipal offices, including the police headquarters. The corners of the square also hold some interesting and attractive buildings, including the church of the Immaculate Conception and the Centro Cultural Metropolitano. We kept meaning to visit the latter, but never got round to it. We did however visit the cathedral and the Archbishop’s Palace and I have covered these, as well as the Palacio de Carondelet, in separate tips.

    The plaza itself, as a public square, dates back to 1612. The first significant buildings to be constructed here were those built by the powerful Catholic Church – the cathedral and the Archbishop’s Palace. Later, private homes followed – the Palacio Hidalgo next door to the Archbishop’s Palace, and more on the northwest side. These latter were damaged in the earthquake of 1627 and the site then occupied by the Palacio de Carondelet. In the eighteenth century the square was further developed to act as a sort of garden for the latter, whose steps (since demolished to allow traffic to pass along this side of the square) led down into it. There was a fountain at the centre, but this was replaced in 1906 by a newly commissioned monument to commemorate the centenary of the country’s independence from Spain. This monument depicts the victory over the Spanish colonial troops through a triumphant condor holding a broken chain in his beak, and a fleeing Iberian lion which is limping away, dragging its cannons and standards as it goes (see photo three).

    Only the rather ugly 1970s building on the southeast side of the square spoils its harmony. This was built as a replacement for an earlier city hall, presumably because the functions of the council of this rapidly growing city had become too numerous for the facilities available in the old structure, but it is a shame that this happened during a period so little renowned both for its respect for historic architecture and for its ability to create memorable modern buildings.

    Any tourist who spends much time in colonial Quito is likely to pass through this square several times. We found it a pleasant haven when we wanted to rest during sightseeing walks (there always seemed to be a bench available) and particularly liked it at night, on our way to and from dinner at a nearby restaurant perhaps, when the surrounding buildings are nicely illuminated.

    Next tip: let’s visit the Cathedral, on the plaza’s southwest side.

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    The Cathedral

    by toonsarah Written Jan 12, 2013

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    Quito’s cathedral was the first such building to be erected in South America, between 1550 and 1562, although it has been since restored several times owing to earthquake damage. It is today a fascinating mix of 16th century colonial Spanish design and local native influences. As an example of the latter, on the wall to the right of the altar there is a painting of the Last Supper with dishes that include cuy (roast guinea pig) and humitas (fresh ground corn mixed with egg, sometimes cheese and other flavourings, wrapped in corn husks and steamed) – it’s unlikely that either of these would have been on the menu in 30 AD Jerusalem!

    On the whole though, the interior is less flamboyant than some of the other smaller churches in the city, but no less interesting for that. As well as the painting mentioned above, look out for the hammered-relief silver doors of the rear chapel, through which you enter, and the beautiful wooden ceiling which dates back to the turn of the 19th century. I also liked the dramatic altarpiece in sky blue picked out with lots of gold – as the most ornate piece of decoration in the cathedral it really draws the eye forwards to the altar, as it is of course intended to do.

    The cathedral has seen its share of bloodshed. A bishop of Quito, José Ignacio Checa y Barba, was murdered here during the Good Friday mass in March 1877, poisoned with strychnine dissolved in the consecrated wine. Only two years earlier, in 1875, the Ecuadorian president Gabriel García Moreno was attacked with a machete outside the cathedral and was brought inside – a plaque behind the altar marks the spot where he died. His is one of several notable tombs in the cathedral, and another is that of Mariscal Sucre, one of Ecuador’s heroes of independence. You will recognise both these names as they are commemorated in nearby streets – Moreno runs just behind the cathedral and intersects with Avenida José de Sucre just a block away.

    While there appears to be an entrance from the Plaza de la Independencia, and indeed one from Moreno, in fact you enter through an unprepossessing doorway on Venezuela, almost lost in a row of small shops. Admission to the cathedral costs $1.50 (October 2012). No photography is allowed inside, as seemed (frustratingly) to be the norm in Quito, but I have to confess that I did sneak one of the altar, without using flash, obviously (see photo four).

    Next tip: moving round the plaza in a clockwise direction to the Palacio de Carondelet

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    Palacio de Carondelet

    by toonsarah Written Jan 12, 2013

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    The Palacio de Carondelet or Palacio del Gobierno (Presidential Palace is an attractive arcaded building on the northwest side of the Plaza de la Independencia. It is Ecuador’s seat of government and the palace of the president – indeed our local friend, Marcello, referred to it always simply as the President’s Palace.

    It is a working government building and I had assumed that tourists were not allowed inside – it was only on our return that I read that it’s possible to go in. You can see the Yellow Room or Hall of Presidents, and the Banqueting Hall, and an exhibition of gifts given to the president, as well as, in the entrance, a mural by Guyasamin which depicts Francisco de Orellana's descent of the Amazon.

    The first government building of the Spanish rulers was located a little to the north of the plaza, near the church of La Merced, but was moved to this site when a larger building was needed – a move made possible by the fact that the houses here had been damaged by earthquake and had to be demolished. This was in the early 17th century, but the building has since (early 19th century) been remodelled in neoclassical style by Carondelet, president of the Crown Colony, after whom it now takes its name. After independence from Spain in 1822 the new republican government continued to use this as the seat of government. The President himself lives on the third floor, in a luxurious colonial-style apartment.

    The palace is guarded by a special unit, the presidential grenadiers, in a uniform dating back to the 19th century. You can apparently see the changing of the presidential guard every Monday at 11.00 am, but we were never in town on a Monday.

    The website below has more information about the history of the palace, the museum and the ceremonial guards, but is unfortunately only in Spanish.

    Next tip: continuing our walk around the plaza, we come to the Archbishop's Palace

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    Palacio Arzobispal

    by toonsarah Written Jan 12, 2013

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    Archbishop's Palace at night
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    On the northeast side of the Plaza de la Independencia is another attractive building, the Palacio Arzobispal or Archbishop's Palace. This is a two-story whitewashed building built in neoclassical style, with a colonnaded passage facing the plaza. Inside are a number of courtyards, around one of which are several restaurants (both fast food and smarter) and souvenir shops – also, conveniently, a good clean public loo!

    It was built in the 17th century at a time when the Catholic Church was as powerful and important as the ruling Spanish government, if not more so. It remained the seat of power of the archbishops of Quito for centuries, undergoing various modifications as needed to preserve or improve the building. Its current restored appearance dates back to 2002 when the structure was strengthened and the courtyard given over to today’s commercial activity. We came here several times as we liked having the choice of restaurants it offered in such a convenient location, less than ten minutes’ walk from our hotel. My next few tips will describe the places we ate in here, starting with Querubin.

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    Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesús

    by toonsarah Written Jan 12, 2013

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    La Compa��ia
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    The Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesús, often abbreviated to just La Compañia, is a must-see in Quito, even if you are not normally keen to visit lots of churches! You will rarely if ever have seen such a richly adorned church, and in fact, La Compañía is considered one of the most significant works of Spanish Baroque architecture in the whole of South America.

    From the outside it looks interesting but no more so than many another church. It was built from grey volcanic stone over a lengthy period of time, between 1605 and 1765, to serve as the base for the Society of Jesus in Ecuador. Originally it had a bell tower, the tallest in colonial Quito, but this was destroyed by an earthquake in 1859, and although rebuilt, destroyed again in 1868. After that they seem to have given up, as it was never replaced. The facade is symmetrical in design and features Solomonic columns, which are symbolic of the Catholic doctrine that life’s journey starts at the bottom (on earth), but by following the holy path, it ends at heaven.

    But it is the interior that will take your breath away! Not only is it ornately carved throughout, but almost every surface is covered with gold. I have read variously that there is almost half a ton of gold, and that there is nearly seven tons – but whatever the weight, it is almost overwhelming in places. You need to take the time to adjust and to start to see through the richness of the surfaces to the detail of the plasterwork itself, and to take in the paintings and other treasures.

    At the centre of the main altar is a statue of the local saint, Mariana de Jesús, whose remains are entombed at its foot. Look out for the paintings by Nicolás Javier Goribar of prophets from Old Testament on 16 of the pillars, and for the symbol of the sun on the main door and on the ceiling. The sun was an important symbol for the Inca, and the Spanish thought that if they decorated the entry with such a symbol, it might encourage local people to join the church. Another thing to note is the absence of figurative designs in the plasterwork, reflecting the Moorish influence – only geometrical shapes are used.

    Photography is unfortunately not allowed inside (I would happily have paid extra to do so, as is the case elsewhere, but that option doesn’t seem to be offered in Quito). However I have found some photos on the web which really give a good idea of the impact made by all this gold – check out this forum on Skyscraper City.

    The church is open Monday to Friday 09.30 to 17.30, on Saturday 09.00 to 16.30, and on Sunday from 13.00 to 16.30. We paid $3.00 to go on, which included an information leaflet in English. As no photos were allowed I also bought two postcards of the interior from the stall in the sacristy (to the right of the altar) for 50c each.

    Next tip: my favourite spot in Quito, the Plaza San Francisco

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