Take a tour of Cuenca’s historic churches on Easter weekend; Agenda of Easter events

Mar 30, 2024 | 0 comments

For Cuencanos and expats interested in learning more about Cuenca’s history, a tour of the city’s historic churches is a good place to start. The Easter weekend is an excellent time to visit, according to local historians, since almost all the churches are open. The churches are notable not only for their 16th, 17th and 18th century architecture, but for the religious artwork and decoration inside.

Cuenca’s New Cathedral

For those out for an evening stroll in the historic district, many of the churches are illuminated at night with special Easter lighting. These include the Old and New Cathedrals, and the iglesias San Alfonso, San Blas, San Francisco and El Carmen, and San Sebastian.

Here’s a short list of churches to visit.

The two Cathedrals
Cuenca’s two most famous churches, the Old and New Cathedrals, face each other across Parque Calderon. The Old Cathedral, or Iglesia de el Sagrario, is on the east side of the park and is the city’s oldest Spanish building, built in 1557.

The New Cathedral, or Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepción, is on the west side of the park. Its construction began in the 1880s and, according to the Cuenca Catholic Diocese, it is the largest cathedral by interior volume in South America. It would have also been the tallest but cracking on the front towers did not allow installation of the steeples.

St. Alphonsus
Saint Alphonsus, at the corner of Borrero and Bolivar, is notable for its towering twin steeples topped with crosses. The church has one of the largest active congregations in the city and offers standing room only on holiday weekends.

San Blas

Iglesia San Blas

Rebuilt in the early 20th century, Iglesia San Blas sits at the eastern edge of the historic district at Manuel Vega and Bolívar. The church faces the popular San Blas Plaza, which is surrounded by restaurants on two sides and Azuay Province government offices on the west.

The church’s construction date is unknown, but some historians believe it was built shortly after the Old Cathedral, in the late 1500s.

A key feature of the church is its pink marble façade and three large hand-carved doors. Inside there are three altars dedicated to the Heart of Jesus, the Passion of Christ and the Poor Christ.

El Carmen
On the south side of the New Cathedral, at Sucre and Padre Aguirre, is the Iglesia de El Carmen. The church is well-known for the Plazoleta de las Flores at its doorstep. El Carmen is part of the Carmelite convent, which remains in operation and dates to the early 1600s.

San Francisco
Iglesia San Francisco is a block to the southwest of El Carmen, at Padre Aguirre and Presidente Córdova, and faces the San Francisco Plaza and market.

San Sebastian church

San Sebastian
Just as the San Blas church marked the eastern boundary of colonial Cuenca, Iglesia San Sebastian marks the western boundary. The church is on the north side of San Sebastian Plaza, which has become a favorite outdoor dining venue in recent years. The Cuenca Modern Art Museum is opposite the church, to the south of San Sebastian Plaza.

Beyond its interior artistry, the church is known for its marble “humiliation” cross out front. In colonial times, thieves, adulterers and liars were tied to the cross and whipped by neighborhood residents before being escorted to the city limit.

Easter Agenda
30/3, 19:00 – Teatro – Ruta Teatral (Theatrical route), Catedral Vieja.
31/3, 10:00 – Recorrido – Ruta cultural (Cultural route), Museo Pumapungo.
2/4, 9:00 – Proyecciones (Screenings) – Actividades astronómicas (Astronomical activities), Planetario. <A simulation of being sucked into a black hole?>
30/3, Todo el día – Festival de la Trucha (Trout festival), Parque San Sebastián.
19:00 – Vigilia (Vigil), All the churches. <All the Catholic churches? I don’t know about the evangelical ones.>
31/3, 9:00 – Domingo de Pascua (Easter Sunday), Catedral Nueva.

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