Quito, Ecuador's capital, sits high in the Andean foothills. Constructed on the foundations of an ancient Incan city, it’s known for its well-preserved colonial center, rich with 16th- and 17th-century churches and other structures blending European, Moorish and indigenous styles.
City of Quito
The City of Quito, capital of Ecuador, was founded in the 16th century on the ruins of an Inca city. Isolated in the Andes Mountains at 2,850 m (9,350 ft) altitude, the city is spread along the slopes of the Pichincha Volcano and is bordered by the hills of Panecillo and Ichimbia.
Founded by the Spanish in 1534, on the ruins of an Inca city, the city of Quito proudly possesses one of the most extensive, least altered and best-preserved historic centers of Spanish America.
The urban roads are based on the original plan and include central and secondary squares as well as checkerboard-patterned streets and are aligned on the cardinal points of the compass.
The central square of Quito is located about 25 km (16 mi) south of the equator; however, the city itself extends to within about 1 km (0.62 mi) of zero latitude.
The City of Quito, a World Heritage Site, has the largest, least-altered and best-preserved historic center in the Americas. The Historic Center of Quito is located in the south-central part of the city on an area of 320 ha (790 acres).
In the city center, there are convents and churches as well as houses (one or two floors with one or several patios), usually built with earthen bricks and covered with stucco, combining the monumental with the simple and austere.
The historic center offers a remarkable example of the Baroque school of Quito (Escuela Quitena), that brings together the indigenous and European artistic traditions and which is renowned for providing the greatest contribution of Spanish America to universal art.
The height of this art is represented by veritable spiritual citadels. These are recognized not only for their artistic value, from the architectural viewpoint but also for their decorative elements (altarpieces, paintings, sculptures).
Points of interest include:
Carondelet Palace: the seat of government of the Republic of Ecuador. The palace is in the nerve center of the public space known as Independence Square or Plaza Grande, around which were built in addition the Archbishop's Palace, the Municipal Palace, the Hotel Plaza Grande and the Metropolitan Cathedral.
Basilica del Voto Nacional: the most important neo-Gothic building in Ecuador and one of the most representative of the American continent. It was once the largest in the New World.
Cathedral of Quito: one of the largest religious symbols of spiritual value for the Catholic community in the city. This church began its construction in 1562, seventeen years after the diocese of Quito was created (1545). The church building was completed in 1806.
Church of La Compañía de Jesús: construction of this church began in 1605; it took 160 years to be built. By 1765 the work was completed with the construction of the façade. This was done by Native Americans who carefully shaped the Baroque style in one of the most complete examples of this art in the Americas.
Church of San Francisco: the largest of the existing architectural ensembles in the historic centers of cities in Latin America. The construction of the church began in 1550 on land adjacent to the plaza where the Native Americans engaged in the barter of products.
Church of El Sagrario: in colonial times, this was one of the largest architectural marvels of Quito. The construction is of the Italian Renaissance style and it was built in the late 17th century. It has a screen that supports its sculptures and decorations. This structure was built by Bernardo de Legarda. Its central arch leads to a dome decorated with frescoes of biblical scenes featuring archangels by Francisco Albán. The altarpiece was gilded by Legarda. It is located on Calle García Moreno near the Cathedral.
Church of Santo Domingo: in 1580 the Dominicans started to build their temple, using the plans and direction of Francisco Becerra. The work was completed in the first half of the 17th century. Inside the church are valuable structures such as the neo-Gothic main altar. The roof of the Mudéjar style church features paintings of martyrs of the Order of Saint Dominic. In the museum, located on the north side of the lower cloister, are pieces from great Quito sculptors such as the Saint Dominic de Guzmán by Father Carlos, the Saint John of God by Caspicara, and the Saint Thomas Aquinas by Legarda.