Home > Ecuador > Quito, closer to the sky (Part 2)

Quito, closer to the sky (Part 2)

The sun shines more intensely now, as we start descending from San Juan Hill, after a breathtaking view of Quito.  We soon enter the narrow and steep streets, lined up with Spanish style colonial houses.  The traditional balconies are a trademark of this architectonic style and many of them are adorned with flower pots, featuring geraniums and other colorful flowers.  The artistic street lamps complete postcard picture views everywhere…

Luis, the guide, points out several stone doors, skillfully carved into real pieces or art. We are reaching the heart of the Historic Centre of Quito, the largest in surface and best preserved of its kind in Latin America.  No wonder this magic city was the first in the world to receive from UNESCO, the honorary title of World Cultural Heritage Site. Amidst the maze of narrow streets, scores of white towers and domes start dominating the scene… these are the numerous and centenary churches, convents and cloisters which cover much of the Colonial quarter of Quito….

We disembark at Independence Square, the heart of Ecuador’s history.  The magnificent square is flanked by the 17th century Presidential Palace; the city’s Metropolitan Cathedral with its green domes; the Archbishop’s Palace and the City Hall.  In the center is the column and statue to the heroes of Ecuador’s Independence, the first revolt staged against the Spanish dominion, sparked precisely in Quito, in 1809 and triggered the process which freed the South American countries from the Spanish domain.  Luis explains in detail the statue’s multi-symbols and makes the actual stone and marble monument become alive with the symbolism and peculiar characteristics it bears.  He also takes us to the main doors of the Cathedral, to observe close-by the superbly carved wooden sculptures of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.  Some pictures with the Presidential guard, wearing their picturesque 18th century uniforms, make us more happy… Diana keeps on observing and finding a million curiosities while I hold my breath, take a good naked-eye look at every angle, every scene and then start clicking the camera away…..

Next is the extraordinary Jesuit church of La Compañia, with its superbly stone carved façade and its interior, glittering with tons of gold panned altars, columns and ceilings. This is the masterpiece of the renowned Quito School of Art, developed during the early colonial years when Spanish and Flemish friars and architects mixed efforts, visions and skills with the native Indians, to produce some of the most spectacular works of religious art on earth… The view is just startling, awesome…. We learn more about the 1605 building, its construction and artistic features.  No photos allowed here….

Then we walk for a block, admiring the little local shops, selling any and everything, from mouth watering ice cream cones to textiles or working tools.  The ambiance is festive, friendly, most lively… And we emerge into the immense San Francisco Square, presided by the namesake church, an imposing temple built in 1535, over the ashes of what is claimed to had been the Palace of the last of the Inca Rulers, Atahualpa. The square teems with people, street actors, music shows, preachers, busy by passers and hundreds of pigeons…. Luis tells us a fascinating story about how the devil participated in the actual building of this enormous and historic stone square…  From everywhere we look, the towers, domes and monuments, rising high, seem to actually pierce the blue sky…. Again that sensation of being on a city that is closer to the sky, it often seems as if we could actually touch it with our own hands….  And the story is still to be continued……

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