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Historical Religious Buildings Tour (Self Guided), Quito

A former Spanish colony, Quito is home to literally dozens of Catholic churches. The Spaniards brought their faith with them to Ecuador and built many fantastic churches and cathedrals, one of which pre-dates even the city itself. Take our Religious Sites Walking Tour to see to the most magnificent and impressive houses of worship in the city.
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Historical Religious Buildings Tour Map

Guide Name: Historical Religious Buildings Tour
Guide Location: Ecuador » Quito (See other walking tours in Quito)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.9 Km or 1.8 Miles
Author: vickyc
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Santo Domingo Church
  • Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús
  • Iglesia de San Francisco
  • Convento de la Merced
  • El Sagrario Church
  • Catedral Metropolitana de Quito
  • Church of San Agustin
  • La Basílica
1
Santo Domingo Church

1) Santo Domingo Church

The Santa Domingo Church, or Iglesia de Santo Domingo, was built in the 1580s by the Dominicans, who had arrived to the area in 1541. It features a beautiful chapel with fine decorations, altar pieces, statues and paintings. The founders of the Quito school of painting were responsible for this church's decoration, and there is now a museum in the church where wonderful Quito sculptures and splendid nativity scene are displayed.
2
Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús

2) Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús (must see)

This Jesuit edifice in the historic center of Quito is one of the city's best-known churches because of its large central nave profusely decorated with gold leaf, gilded plaster and wood carvings. It was modeled after the Church of the Gesù and Sant'Ignazio in Rome.

Styled in Latin American Baroque, it took the Jesuits order almost 160 years to finish construction. Design elements include a near symmetrical facade, Moorish influence in the nave, and artwork by artists of the Quito School of Art. The bell tower was one of the tallest structures from the colonial period but fell as an effect of the earthquakes of 1859 and 1868. Over the past few decades, the church has undergone lengthly restoration work, especially since a fire damaged the interior of the nave.

A sarcophagus with the remains of Ecuador's patron saint, Mariana de Jesús, is located in the base of the central altar.

Why You Should Visit:
While many churches through Europe & South America are elaborate, none match the interior of this church.

Tip:
Make certain to go with a guide (English available) because it will provide a level of insight to the background that isn't available on an independent tour.
Photos are not allowed, but there is a gift shop hidden in the front right corner where postcards of the interior may be purchased amongst other things.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Thu: 9:30am-6:30pm; Fri: 9:30am-5:30pm; Sat: 9:30am-4pm; Sun: 12:30-4pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
3
Iglesia de San Francisco

3) Iglesia de San Francisco (must see)

The Church and Monastery of St. Francis (Spanish: Iglesia y Monasterio de San Francisco), commonly known as 'el San Francisco', is a 16th-century Roman Catholic complex in Quito. It fronts onto its namesake Plaza de San Francisco. The imposing structure has the distinction of being the largest architectural ensemble among the historical structures of colonial Latin America and for this reason is sometimes known as "El Escorial of the New World". The style evolved over almost 150 years of construction (1534-1680) through earthquakes and changes in artistic fashion. The Church houses the city's beloved Virgin of Quito (1734).

Why You Should Visit:
Just like so many of the churches in Quito – very opulent.
The big front area offers great views of the Panecillo and the city.
The structure itself is beautiful and the courtyard with the toucans is just great.

Tip:
Using one of the guides to get a 45min tour is well worth your time and donation.
The tower is accessible only with a guide, and it gets very tight at times.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 7am-12pm / 3-5:30pm; Sun: 7am-12pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
4
Convento de la Merced

4) Convento de la Merced

The Convent of Merced is an impressive church that stands on the Merced Square. It boasts a solid quadrangular tower with Arabic features and a main elegant dome plus four small domes, all of which contribute to the extremely beautiful exterior of the church. There are also many unique and priceless paintings inside.
5
El Sagrario Church

5) El Sagrario Church

The El Sagrario Church was built near the Cathedral of Quito in the 1700s. It is not known for sure who was the designer of the church. There is a bell-tower as well as Ionic and Corinthian columns. The screen by Francisco Alban Legarda is a masterpiece, and is one of the best models of baroque style in all of Quito. Inside the church visitors can admire the splendid dome, with frescoes also created by Legarda.
6
Catedral Metropolitana de Quito

6) Catedral Metropolitana de Quito (must see)

Located on the southern side of La Plaza Grande, the Catedral Metropolitana de Quito, known simply as la Catedral, serves as the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Quito. It is considered to be one of the oldest cathedrals in South America.

It has two entrances: one is part of the nave facing La Plaza Grande and the other is at the west facade facing Garcia Moreno street. Ravines prevented the main facade from facing the plaza, as is customary in Spanish city design. Artwork by an artist of the Quito School of Art adorns the interior. The main altar is designed in Baroque style, while the exterior is orthodox Spanish. The Cathedral impresses because of its white walls, its dome made of glazed green ceramic, the arch of Carondelet and the foliated staircase that comes down to Plaza Grande, articulating the Cathedral and the square. It also has three naves; the right nave opens out onto chapels crowned by domes with skylights. The roofs of the naves are supported by pointed arches. A wooden coffered ceiling lies on a golden frieze and beautiful paintings hang among the arches.

The Cathedral has Gothic features in the pointed arches of the naves. Plaques on the outside walls commemorate the launching point of Francisco de Orellana's expedition to the Amazon. The catacombs of the cathedral serve as a resting place to many important figures in Ecuador's history, such as independence leader Antonio José de Sucre. The small altar of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores has a plaque showing where Gabriel García Moreno was shot in 1875.

Why You Should Visit:
There are a lot of beautiful churches in Quito and some with more gold than this; however, there are two main reasons why you must come here.
First, the Nativity scene – it has a Spanish horse and an alpaca. Secondly, the Last Supper, which has a cuy (guinea pig) as the centerpiece.

Tip:
For a quick fun adventure, get the ticket which includes the domes ($6) and enjoy some seriously claustrophobic short passages up to the roof providing great views across town.
Also, a few really well-priced craft stores in the cathedral are selling alpaca scarves and clothes – you'll regret not buying whilst there as you'll never see better prices.
Sight description based on wikipedia
7
Church of San Agustin

7) Church of San Agustin

The Church of San Agustín is a church located in Quito. It is one of the seven monumental churches of the 16th and 17th centuries whose main portico was built on stone in the Spanish Baroque-architecture style.

The church includes a small atrium (decorated by a large stone cross), an inside yard with a large garden and a large session hall where the frayers held disertations or "capitulations" of faith. The cloister and convent have a separate entrance which leads to the garden. The bell tower reaches a high of twenty-two meters and houses two bronze bells of the period.
Sight description based on wikipedia
8
La Basílica

8) La Basílica (must see)

One of Quito's top landmarks is the Basilica del Voto Nacional, also known simply as 'La Basilica'. Like Notre-Dame in Paris, this majestic church is set on a hill and can be admired from anywhere in the city. First built in 1883, improvements continue to be made to the church to this day. Its towers are the tallest in the country. The Basilica is especially beautiful at night when it is illuminated in several colors. Don't leave Quito without seeing this amazing house of worship.

Tip:
From here you get great views of El Panecillo and the Old Town. However, if you're braver, walk across the roof to the tower at the back of the basilica. There are two very steep and narrow metal stairs which take you to the very top of the "back tower". It can be crowded and many people struggle to get up and down but if you have a head for heights it's worth the hassle. The only thing to note is that you cannot get good photos of the Old Town specifically, as the front towers block the view.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-5pm

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