Find a historical site rich with religious, political and artistic heritage at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Quito (Catedral Metropolitana de Quito), one of the oldest churches in South America. This 16th-century cathedral features an eclectic mix of architectural styles, from Gothic-Mudéjar (Moorish) to Baroque and neoclassical. Stroll through the historic cathedral to see its ornate naves, chapels, golden high altar and celebrated paintings from the Quito School of Art.
Admire the cathedral from Independence Square (Plaza Grande), where you can see its northeast face and the semicircular staircase leading up to the lavish Arch of Carondelet entrance. Wander through the gardens to the cathedral’s main entrance, which is offset from the plaza by 16th-century defensive ravines. When facing the cathedral’s front entrance, note the three domes adorned with green ceramic and the tall bell tower on the cathedral’s right side. One of the domes, above the transept, features an iron weather vane in the shape of a rooster. This rooster features in several local legends.
Enter the cathedral to see elaborate wooden carvings, Moorish details and a stunning golden frieze. Bright daylight shines through its tall domes. Don’t miss the collection of artworks depicting saints and martyrs exhibited within altarpieces covered in gold leaf. The cathedral survived two major earthquakes, in 1660 and 1797, and has undergone many renovations over the centuries. It also contains the remains of Ecuadorian cardinals, bishops, presidents and other celebrated historical figures, such as Antonio José de Sucre, who fought in South America’s campaign for independence from Spain.
Metropolitan Cathedral of Quito is located on the southwestern side of Independence Square in the Old Town. It is easily accessible on foot or by the local trolleybus. The cathedral is open daily and charges a small admission fee. Several independent tour operators conduct tours of the cathedral and its surrounding area. Take a tour to explore the cathedral’s highest dome, see a stunning view across Quito Old Town and learn about its history, myths and legends.