Good afternoon! I hope everyone had an enjoyable spring break. The Mounties in Cuenca definitely did – be sure to check out Shelby’s post from Tuesday to see what we did in the Galapagos.
Today’s post will give you a tour of the oldest European structure in Cuenca, the Catedral Vieja, or Old Cathedral. What was once the city’s grand cathedral is now a museum of incredible religious art. From the arches to the chapels, guests at the cathedral will certainly not be disappointed by the quality of artwork and craftsmanship.
Planning for the cathedral began in 1557 after Cuenca was founded by the Spanish. Much like the typical Spanish colonial settlement, the church is built around one side of the city’s main plaza. Other buildings in the plaza would have typically included the government’s administrative locations.
One of the most impressive aspects of the Old Cathedral is the preservation of art from more than four centuries ago. For example, check out this fresco entitled “Virgin with the Children.” It was painted on the walls in 1573 but was later covered over with a form of plaster. It was rediscovered in the twentieth century, and it is now proudly on display.
Another interesting aspect of the cathedral is the small chapel built near the front of the sanctuary, to the left of the main altar. The structure of the chapel was built from repurposed tombstones; the stones were heavy enough to support the foundation of the chapel, which is why they were removed from the cemeteries. The chapel is clearly meant to serve as a place of quiet reflection. This is evident by the beautiful altarpiece, “Sacrarium,” which was added in 1946. It depicts the Last Supper, where Jesus initiated the first Eucharist among the twelve apostles.
The climax of the entire cathedral is at the main arch; Nicholas Vivar painted “The Calvary” on the main arch as a symbol of Christ’s crucifixion at Mount Calvary. As you can see from the picture below, the main color of the background is blue, which may symbolize the sorrow Christians feel when they remember the Crucifixion. Of all the churches we’ve visited so far in Ecuador, this arch is probably the most meaningful piece I’ve seen.
However, “The Calvary” is not the only beautifully painted arch in the cathedral. The Triunfal Arches right before the altar separates the sanctuary from the presbytery. Different saints and angels are depicted in each corner of the arches.
It was well worth the $1.50 admission to enter and tour the cathedral. I would absolutely recommend visiting it to anyone, especially someone interested in religious art.
Thank you for visiting the Mount’s travel blog this #HolyThursday for a tour of the Old Cathedral. Please check back next week for a tour of … yep, you guessed it, the New Cathedral. Also, be sure to follow us on Instagram for more pictures of the cathedrals.