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Ecuador: Virgen de Quito

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Virgen de Quito | Ecuador | Americas

[Visited: December 2011]

Almost the first thing we saw when we started walking the streets of the historic heart of Quito, was the Virgen de Quito, a modern-day statue gently waving at us with her right hand as if inviting us up, right on top of the Panecillo mountain which rises above the city. We decided at once that we should head up there after an initial exploration of the historic city centre. So it was, several hours later, that we started walking up the hill. After a chat with two policemen at the foot of the hill who advised us to be careful, we started out on the steep climb, and could immediately feel that we had just arrived the day before at this altitude of around 2.800m. Nevertheless, we reached the top quite soon and were now officially over 3.000m. We turned back, and enjoyed sweeping views of the old city, recognizing some of the churches and squares we had just seen up close.

Picture of Virgen de Quito (Ecuador): Looking up the statue of Virgen de Quito from right below

We turned around again, putting our heads in our necks to see the enormous statue of the Virgin of Quito high above us. She had already seemed tall from the streets of the old city, but now that we were actually at the circular pedestal on which she stands, she just dwarfed us. Not strange: the statue towers 41m above the ground. Now that we were closer, we realized that the Virgen actually stands on a chained dragon, which in turn sits on a big globe. It was time to go inside. At the ground level, we found a small, simple chapel. From here, we walked up the stairs, to find a floor with small religious items on display, and stained glass windows around us representing religious figures.

Picture of Virgen de Quito (Ecuador): Virgen de Quito crowned by stars and waving to those beneath her

The second floor held more small items on display, and pictures of the construction of the statue. Unlike the centuries old city centre below us, the statue of the Virgin of Quito was only constructed in the mid 1970s as a monument to the Virgin Mary, and is one of the largest aluminium statues in the world. When we reached the third floor, we could step outside, and realized that we could go no higher. Actually, the door turned out to be a part of the globe; we could now walk around the globe in less than a minute. A few metres above us, we saw the chained dragon, and on top, the madonna, who still looked friendly from this angle. It was now easier to see that the statue is made of many pieces - actually, Agustín de la Herrán Matorras, the sculptor, used around 7.000 to complete his work of art. Once we were out of the Virgin again, we walked to a viewpoint for a view over the southern side of Quito, and realized again that, because of its location in a narrow valley surrounded by high volcanoes, the city is very long. From the statue, walking down to the historic centre of Quito was downhill and fast.

Picture of Virgen de Quito (Ecuador): The views over the city of Quito from the Panecillo are spectacular
Picture of Virgen de Quito (Ecuador): The Virgen de Quito stands high on a pedestal on top of the Panecillo hill above Quito
Picture of Virgen de Quito (Ecuador): Our Lady of the Cloud represented in a stained glass window in the pedestal of the Virgen de Quito
Picture of Virgen de Quito (Ecuador): Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados inside the pedestal of the Virgen de Quito
Picture of Virgen de Quito (Ecuador): Pedestal holding the statue of the Virgen de Quito
Picture of Virgen de Quito (Ecuador): Aluminium Virgen de Quito with a starry crown looking out over the city at her feet
Picture of Virgen de Quito (Ecuador): Standing on top of the world - and a chained dragon - the Virgen de Quito looks out over the city
Picture of Virgen de Quito (Ecuador): Virgen de Quito seen from below, with part of the globe visible as well
Picture of Virgen de Quito (Ecuador): Small chapel inside pedestal of the Virgen de Quito

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