Ecuador is a nation that has a vast historical, cultural and natural heritage. It is a country that offers a lot in its small territory: nature, adventure, and beautiful architecture, a place where there is an enormous wealth of churches and buildings of the Catholic religion. This makes the country a power in religious tourism segment.
The historical and cultural legacy that Catholicism exhibits in Ecuadorian mainland is very extensive. Churches, chapels, convents, museums and other sites of the Catholic faith in the country are a major heritage legacy.
According to the www.significados.com site, cultural heritage is "the set of cultural property that historically belong to a community, people or nation and that is made up of traditions, beliefs, values, customs and artistic and folkloric expressions which constitute its past, its identity and its uniqueness".
In the country of the Middle of the World there are a variety of churches, museums and religious complexes that are open to the public which can be easily visited. Several of these sites are part of the cultural heritage of the nation as they date back several centuries ago.
In the Andean region there are more churches and religious complexes compared to what exists in the rest of the country. Quito leads the list with the largest number of churches, museums and Catholic convents. This is because the Ecuadorian capital city was the country’s religious and administrative epicenter since colonial times.
Catholic Religion in Ecuador
According to Population Pyramid, there are 16.2 million inhabitants in the country in 2015. According to information from the Ecuavisa web portal, out of the total population, 13.1 are considered practitioners of the Catholic faith. According to the same website, Ecuador is considered the seventh largest country in Latin America to have the largest number of Catholic churches in its territory. The same website says there are 25 constituencies and 1,301 Catholic parishes throughout its four geographic regions.
On the other hand, according to the document "INEC presents for the first time statistics on religion", from the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC), "8 out of 10 Ecuadorians, who say they have a religious affiliation, are Catholics." The document notes that "in regard to religious affiliation, the data shows that 91.95% of the population claims to have a religion, out of which 80.4% belong to the Catholic religion
Finally, the INEC report indicates that "three out of ten said believers attend a religious cult (worship, Masses, meetings, etc.) at least once a week; two in ten do it once a month, and 15.9% attend only on special occasions", the report says.
These numbers show the importance of Catholicism in the country, where religious fervor is evident in repeated occasions throughout the year through mass demonstrations and processions. It also expresses its faith in large, medium and small churches in the 24 provinces of the country.
Main temples and religious pilgrimages in Ecuador
El Quinche sanctuary and pilgrimage, Pichincha
It is a very important temple at national level because every November 21 a pilgrimage and worship to the Virgin of Quinche takes place. The tradition began when the Virgin of El Quinche image was moved from the town of Oyacachi to El Quinche on March 10, 1604.
The image is a wooden sculpture, carved in the sixteenth century by Don Diego de Robles, an artist author of other images of Mary that have great popularity and veneration. It is believed that the Virgin of El Quinche has made several miraculous acts, physical and spiritual healings, reasons why the sanctuary has become one of the most famous shrines in the country.
This is one of the most visited sanctuaries by parishioners and pilgrims in Ecuador. The hard journey takes between six and eight hours on average. The pilgrimage route has a length of 30 km starting from the valley area of Cumbaya and Tumbaco. The El Quinche parish is located one hour east of the Metropolitan District of Quito urban area.
A very important visit took place in July of this year, when Pope Francis I visited this sanctuary during his visit to this Latin American country. There, he gathered thousands of faithful people for a Eucharistic celebration, and it was also his opportunity to observe closely the image of the miraculous Virgin.
La Balbanera Church: Colta, Chimborazo
The complete name of the temple is "Church of the Nativity of the Balbanera Virgin Mary". It is located at the foot of the Pan-American Sur road, 20 kilometers south of Riobamba and 2 km of the Colta canton in Chimborazo.
It is the first Catholic shrine built in Ecuadorian territory. It has a history of 481 years. It was erected on August 15, 1534, during the Spanish colonial period. About 90% of its original structure remains almost intact. For security reasons, the interior of the church can only be seen from some outside slits. There is a breathtaking view of the Chimborazo volcano from this place.
Reina Del Rosario de Agua Santa Basilica: Baños, Tungurahua
It is situated in the central square of the city of Baños. Its construction began on February 11, 1904 by Friar. Thomas Halflants, a Baños parish priest, and was completely finished in 1944 by Friar Sebastian Acosta.
The temple is quite large and it is divided into three naves. Its architectural style is semi-Gothic and it is shaped as a rectangular with large columns and arches. All the decoration and the paintings that adorn the walls were worked by Fray Enrique Mideros, an artist from Imbabura,
Worshipers say that the image of the Reina Del Rosario de Baños has made several miracles and healings, which have been highlighted in hundreds of plates and paintings found in the church. One of the best known is the constant protection of this small town from eruptions from the neighboring Tungurahua volcano.
Santa Narcisa de Jesus National Sanctuary: Nobol, Guayas
It is located in the Nobol canton, 40 minutes away from Guayaquil, Guayas. Narcisa de Jesus Martillo Moran is venerated by faithful from around the country and even from other countries. Her beatification took place in 1992, which led to the construction of the temple in Nobol, her homeland.
On October 12, 2008, she was part of a canonization process proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter's Square in Rome, Italy. Santa Narcisa de Jesus is revered by many people, who attribute her miracles and healings.
Cristo Del Consuelo procession: Guayaquil, Guayas
The procession of Cristo Del Consuelo is considered one of the most important and massive in the country. It symbolizes the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and it has taken place for more than half a century (54 years) during Easter week, on the morning of Easter Friday, as reported by the newspaper Guayaquil es mi destino, edited by the council of this port city.
The procession has become one of the most emblematic at national and international levels. It dates back to April 15, 1960, when the image of Cristo Del Consuelo arrived at the site when the place was just a plain with mangroves and water.
The 1,80 meters high image is a replica of the one existing in the Immaculate Heart Sanctuary of Madrid. The priest, Angel Maria Canals, commissioned its carving to the master artisan Julio Quispe and his assistant, Julio Jimbo, both from Cuenca.
According to the same web portal, the pilgrimage starts at 07:00. It leaves from the Cristo del Consuelo church (Lizardo Garcia Avenue, worshipers walk 17 blocks down Azuay street and Leonidas Plaza avenue, until reaching the Holy Spirit Church (Azuay and Gallegos Lara streets),
Approximately half a million faithful people participate in this procession, many of them doing penance. The great number of worshipers that participate turn this journey, which would normally take between 15 to 20 minutes, into one that lasts around six hours.
Jesus Del Gran Poder procession: Quito, Pichincha
The procession of Jesus Del Gran Poder started 53 years ago. Father Francisco Fernandez, with the so-called Jesus Del Gran Poder Society, was in charge of it. When the priest arrived from Guayaquil, the image was in the sacristy, in the back of the San Francisco church high altar, according to El Comercio web portal. At present, the image of Jesus Del Gran Poder is located on the main altar of this church.
At that time, the image carved in balsa wood, was known as 'Nazarene'. But, alongside the birth of the initiative, it was christened with the name it is known until today. This is a major pilgrimage, along with the one for Cristo Del Consuelo in Guayaquil
During the Holy Week in Quito, the image of Jesus Del Gran Powder is taken down from the high altar of the San Francisco church. The Veronicas, penitent women dressed in purple and black outfits, are another important participants in the procession that starts from the convent and church. There are also the famous cucuruchos, characters dressed in purple robes and costumes representing the expiation of sins, according to data from the Fray Pedro Gocial Museum, part of the San Francisco convent.
Virgen Del Cisne Procession: Catamayo, Loja
The sanctuary of El Cisne is located 72 km from the city of Loja, capital of the province of the same name. This is the distance that the image carved by Diego de Robles four centuries ago, travels each year. The festivities start in El Cisne and on August 17 they arrive in San Pedro de la Bendita, according to information gathered by the Federacion Hotelera del Ecuador.
Thousands of worshipers from all over Ecuador and even from northern Peru, participate in this massive pilgrimage to pay for promises, asking for healing and miracles, to accompany the image and expiate sins. According to the website, traditional food stalls are placed at each stop of the pilgrimage to offer lojana food: tamales, chanfaina, repe and achira sponge cake,
On August 18 the procession reaches the temperate valley of Catamayo. On August 20, El Cisne image makes its grand entrance to the lojana capital city where it remains until September 8 of each year. The Swam Virgin was declared as the "patron" of tourism in Ecuador. Its annual celebration is on September 2.
MAJESTIC QUITO ART
The historic center of Quito, greatest exponent of Quito’s art, has an area of 375.2 hectares. It houses more than 130 monumental buildings, among which there are more than 60 churches, monasteries, chapels, cloisters and chapter halls. This historic district is known as the "Cloister of America".
The most important churches in Quito are: San Francisco, Metropolitan Cathedral, Santo Domingo, San Augustin, La Campania de Jesus(the Society of Jesus), and Guapulo. They can all be visited during the times opened to the public to admire these temples, beautiful monasteries, chapter halls, and magnificent museums of religious art.
Quito’s imagery (sculptures and religious images) had the following representatives: Diego De Robles, Francisco Del Castillo, Father Carlos, Bernardo de Legarda, author of the famous Virgin of Legarda, with its replica at big scale: the Panecillo Virgin; Pampite Francisco Tipan, Manuel Chili (Caspicara), Menacho, and Zangurima, among the main
COMPANIA DE JESUS CHURCH
Considered as the best religious building in the three Americas, by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), for its acronym in English. "The Society of Jesus was built between 1605 and 1765. Its architectural design took two Jesuits temples in Rome as iconic references, Il Gesu and San Ignacio", according to the Fundación Iglesia de la Campania de Jesus (FICJ) website.
The temple belongs to the Jesuit Order. "The interior has a Latin cross nave, a central nave, northern and southern naves, a cruise, north and south transepts, presbytery, ante sacristy, sacristy and chapel", according to the FICJ website.
"The central nave is covered by a 26 meters high dome, made of brick, pumice and finely decorated with plaster, polychrome and gold leaf in Moorish style," says the website. It is estimated that the temple contains a total of 23 gold karats.
"The facade of the Church is an outstanding work of baroque style, built entirely in gray volcanic stone. Each space is covered with finely carved detail; flowers, angels, archangels, church symbols and several representative images of the Catholic Church and of the founder of the Jesuit Order can be admired", reports the FICJ website.
Quito's colonial quarter, with its artistic and architectural wealth, is available for tourists who wish to visit it. Getting to know Quito is to admire its history, wealth and experience unique feelings when temporarily relocated to a complex but very rich past.
Church and Convent of San Francisco
It is the largest religious convent of Latin America. San Francisco Square is a plain of volcanic rock, where its imposing church with its two towers and the huge convent were built. It houses inside the "Fray Pedro Gocial" museum of religious art.
The museum displays a magnificent artistic legacy made up of one of the most beautiful and complete collections of Quito’s art from the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It houses magnificent paintings and sculptures, which represent the vast Hispanic and religious influence in the colonial era, which has been conserved until the present times, according to information from the Sistema de Museos y Centros Culturales de Quito.
This architectural complex was built in 1550. The church has altarpieces and altars covered in gold (like the La Compania Church). The temple has undergone an arduous remodeling and reconstruction process. The museum and the church can be visited any day of the week.