My friend Martha has a rule about traveling with her husband Chris. She restricts him to one church a day. Quito has 86. I only have three weeks in Ecuador, and only a few days in Quito. I figured I´d better start with the most spectacular one.
La Compañia is Baroque on steroids or some kind of drug trip. You´re going to have to take my word for it because no photos are allowed inside. The guide who showed me around the church pointed out that some altars were an even more ornate style than Baroque. I´d tell you what it was, but I couldn´t quite understand him.
“On this altar there are some spaces and on this other one, all the spaces are filled in,” he said. I could see that one had more curlicues that stuck out even farther than the other one, but I couldn´t have imaged there was a millimeter in the entire church that was not filigreed or gold leafed. My guidebook said the church had 7 tons of gold, but the guide said that wasn´t true because the altars are wood covered in gold leaf, not solid gold. That brings it down to only 51 kilos of gold. Translated, that´s about 112 pounds, or what I´d weigh in my super-thin fantasy (as opposed to just my potentially achievable thin fantasy).
The church was built by the Jesuits, thus the name. In English, the Jesuits are the Society of Jesus. In Spanish that translates to La Compañia de Jesus. St. Ignatius, their founder, makes several appearances as does Santa Mariana, the first Ecuadoran saint. She is present in body and spirit, buried in the main altar in, what else, a gold casket. There are at least 8 side altars, each ornate enough to be the main altarpiece in any other church.
One downer is the huge painting of hell, in which the sinners each have a unique torture apparently designed for their specific sin, which is helpfully labeled. Not content with just the seven deadly signs, they added others like drunkeness and general dishonesty. The painting was supposed to scare people, the guide said.
No church worth its salt would be complete without a miracle, so of course La Compañia has one. Students, a teacher and a cook in the adjacent school saw a painting of La Virgen Delarosa (The Virgin of Sorrows) blinking in 1906. To celebrate the centenial of this miracle, the painting is touring the country but a copy sits in its place directly behind the altar.
Plenty of time to blog today as there was a major downpour here. Just as I was about to head out for more touristing after lunch, the heavens opened. Internet cafe to the rescue. There are a plethora of them.
So here´s a few of my general first impressions:
Weather — Overcast and then rainstorm, but not freezing and I´m so relieved. I actually had to throw off my down cover last night.
People/Attire — The whole world dresses in nearly the same any more in some form of pants and shirts and Ecuador is no exception here in the big city. I stood out most today because I was wearing sunglasses when it was mostly cloudy. That and the camera were the biggest giveaways.
Music — Old Town: House of Rising Sun blaring from a shop I passed. Madonna Like a Virgen (the entire album) for lunch. New Town: Beyonce, Macy Gray, Justin Timberlake. So new town music is a few years old and old town is even older. I´ve yet to hear Spanish music.
Transportation — easy, convenient trolley system. Navigating the station was the most confusing part. You enter at one end and exit at the other. I entered the exit. They could see I was a tourist for sure then. A nice lady gave me directions so I could pay and enter appropriately.
Navigation — easy. The city has a population of about 1.5 million , but the tourist areas are compact and well marked. The mountains to one side make it easy to get your bearings. With the exception of the trolley stop mentioned above.
Physical Fitness — at more than 9,000 feet I feel like my lungs are that of a small child. Most my of my exploration was been downhill. I tried walking several blocks up the San Francisco-style hill to another church, but decided to do that another day. Martha was right. One church a day.
The country is shutting down at 2 p.m. tomorrow for the World Cup match. I plan to travel to Otovalo a couple of hours north for the big market on Saturday. I can´t pass up a market. I´m hoping the bus doesn´t take a detour for a few hours, or maybe I´ll try to get to my destination before 2 p.m.