Hello, everyone! Unfortunately, I’m writing this post from the United States and not from Cuenca. Due to the COVID-19 virus, our group of Mounties had to return home early. It’s certainly not the way we all planned this semester to go, but I can speak for the group when I say we had an amazing experience.
As I mentioned in my last post, Cuenca follows the traditional Spanish style of civilization – a central plaza surrounded by a church and other governmental buildings. Cuenca’s main plaza, the Parque Calderon, contains a larger-than-life statue of Abdon Calderon, an Ecuadorian hero in their war for independence. That iconic statue is surrounded by sky-scraping trees that are hundreds of years old.
Luckily, I was able to visit the New Cathedral, or Catedral Nueva in Spanish, before we left. The Cathedral is amazing for not only its architectural uniqueness but also for its central role in the heart of Cuenca. As soon as we entered this amazing sanctuary, the beauty was overwhelming. Visitors are greeted at the door with a statue of Pope John Paul II (or, Papa Juan Pablo II).
The colorful stained-glass leads from the rose window at the back of the cathedral to the sides of the church, depicting the many saints important in Ecuadorian life, before reaching the center of any Catholic church, the high altar.
There are two beautiful chapels along the sides of the Cathedral. The one to the left of the church is devoted to Marianata of Jesus, and the other serves as a center for the Catholic practice of adoration. The stained glass above each of these chapels depicts important saints and other symbols of Ecuador. For example, look for the brown pelican in this picture! The brown pelican is a species typical of the Galapagos Islands, which is why it is included in the art of the windows.
Another key feature of the cathedral is the high altar, which is made of gold. Surrounded by vibrant flowers, there is a golden dome that might have been designed to replicate the external structure of the cathedral. The crucifix hangs at the center of the altar; the focal point of the Mass.
During our group tour of the Cathedral, I learned about a $2 tour of the bell towers and the crypt. I went back shortly before we were slated to return to the United States, yet the towers were already closed under the direction of the government to reduce possible sickness among tourists.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this #HolyThursday post! Next week, Shelby and I will transition into stories about our arrival back in the United States, as well as some travel tips for you!