I haven’t spent much time in Spain, so I haven’t seen the churches that inspired those built in Latin American countries. The churches I saw in Quito were very different from the English, French, and North American ones I’m familiar with; much more elaborate decoration, the Virgin Mary featured more prominently, less emphasis on stonework and more on paintwork. I love the cathedrals of Chartres and Salisbury, but La Compañia and San Francisco were magnificent in their own right.
My guidebook described the Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesus as gaudy, but I loved it. Every square inch was covered in gleaming gold–the ceiling, the walls, the giant columns lining the aisles, the baroque columns framing the paintings. Some other colors crept in here and there, in the paintings and altar pieces, and okay, the pews were made of wood and the floors were a mix of stone and wood, but everything else was gold. It was stunning. They were really strict about not taking photos, but I snuck a couple.
The San Franciscan order of monks was the first to settle in the area, and the church and monastery they built here is now the largest religious complex in South America. The church is elaborately decorated, with paintings and an interlocking pattern on the ceiling. Saints form a semicircle around the altar, and the ceiling above is a deep blue and gold. The choir is made up of intricate wood carvings, and it affords a good view over the nave.
The attached museum contains sculptures and paintings done in the Quito style (one of the four main schools of art in the colonial period in South America). One of the halls was filled with figures carried during religious parades, like Carnaval and Holy Week, including a wooden bed for carrying statues. I tagged along on an English-speaking tour of the museum, learning about how the position of the statue on El Panecillo is a specific form that is found in statues elsewhere (like a couple in the museum), and how Santo Domingo is always depicted with a devoted dog at his feet.
The cathedral that forms one side of the main plaza has a stark exterior and a lovely interior, sky blue patterned with gold and pink, transporting you into the heavens as soon as you walk inside. They were starting a service when I ducked in there, so I didn’t spend much time.