“ Address: San Juan / Quito Canton / Ecuador „
Basílica del Voto Nacional, Quito
The name of this rather beautiful building translates to the Basilica of the National Vow which is a rather odd name for a church in my view. Just to confuse matter it is also known as the Catedral Consagración de Jesús or the Basílica de San Juan. Whatever its name, it is the Roman catholic church or cathedral central to Quito.
This was our first stop on our tour of the old town area of Quito and I was quite awe inspired when I saw it from outside and then we went in and I reached another level on awe altogether.
The basilica is built on San Juan Hill in the old part of Quito and although it looks really old it is in fact not that old. Construction was started in back in the late 1800s but it was not actually built until the years 1892 and 1909 and at this time the church was called the Heart of Mary Cathedral. I am not quite sure why but the basilica as it is today was not blessed until Pope John Paul II came in1985, and then it was consecrated and inaugurated on July 12, 1988.
Within the building as a whole there is an older chapel and this part of the building tourists are not allowed to go into or to take photos of. We did however stand at the door way and look in. The gold and gilt was amazing. There was so much opulence and gilded iconography that my eyes were almost popping out of my head. There appeared to be a number of people in the chapel at prayer but not actually a service so I don't know how they know who are worshippers and who are tourists if you go in and kneel down and look respectfully religious.
The main part of the basilica is not as old as I had thought it might be from the look of the building inside and outside. My initial impression was that the arched stone ceilings were so high and simple and quite beautiful. I then looked around a bit more beyond the impressive high arched ceilings and saw the rather beautiful stained glass windows. There were two most impressive rose windows in the sort of centre of the cross shaped building.
The pews were quite simple wooden pews but the altar and windows and decorations were completely ostentatious and strangely beautiful in their own way. Not the kind of thing you would want in your house but as religious iconography goes these were quite splendid.
Around the altar which seemed to be kind of in the centre of the cross of the building there were several huge flower arrangements, the kind you might see in hotel foyers or at posh weddings and there were at least five in that area alone.
Outside it is a classic sort of Gothic style cathedral - looking building with spires and towers and stone carvings. It is very beautiful, very ornate and in fact from the front it reminded me a bit of Notre Dame in Paris. I was impressed that this sort of skill still existed in the last century really which sounds a bit silly but many craft skills seem to be lost that were so much a part of life way back. This is in fact the largest neogothic basilica in the New World.
I think the thing that appealed most to me was the fact that the gargoyles are all South American animals. They chose animals that represented the different parts of Ecuador, the jungle, the mountains and the coast. We saw an armadillo, crocodile, tortoise, sloth and iguana to name but a few that I recall.
Although you can visit the main basilica for free any time from 9.30 am till 5.30 pm, there are fees charged for entering some parts of this huge building. There are around twenty four chapels to see in the free area.
If you are not afraid of heights and don't mind climbing a number of stairs then it costs $2 to climb the bell tower; careful as the bell tolls on the hour and is quite loud. This takes you up pretty high and as the basilica is already on a hill the views of Quito are supposed to be splendid. This didn't appear to be part of our tour either because of time constraints or the fee but it was not offered. Apparently there is a lift for part of the climb I believe and if you do get the chance the view is supposed to be worthwhile the climb and the wind while you are up there.
On the third floor of the tower in this huge building is a cafe where you can have drinks and snacks but as we had only just begun our tour we didn't need this.
Something to be aware of if you are visiting without a guide is that there are some who hang around offering to show you around for a fee. You don't need to pay to go into the main building unless you want to climb the tower. How expert these guides are I don't know but you do not need to have one to enter.
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