LA MERCED CHURCH AND MONASTERY
Church from Monday to Sunday from 07:00 – 12:00 and 15:00 – 17:00 Convent with prior reservation
Cuenca and Chile
$ 3 for the convent
The Monastery of Nuestra Señora de la Merced is a building of profound historical and architectural significance.
Construction of this monumental complex started in 1559, and covers an area of 29,000 square meters (church and monastery), built in a Baroque and Moorish style. Initially called San Juan de Letrán chapel, inside you’ll find sculptures by Bernardo de Legarda (the main altarpiece, carved in 1748 and 1751), works by Miguel de Santiago, Francisco Albán, Manuel Samaniego, Goríbar and other great Colonial artists. Notable too is a pictorial series of more modern artists, including 19th century Luis Cadena and Joaquín Pinto and what is, undeniably, the piece de resistence oeuvre by painter Víctor Mideros.
The tower of la Merced houses in its foundations the remains of an Incan wall; however, this church has been reconstructed a number of times due to earthquake damage. Its library, which contains around 22,000 books, and its stone fountain in the central courtyard are important attractions.
Veneration of the Virgin of the volcano
The relationship between the people of Quito and Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes became closer with time. According to historian González Suárez, the Mercedarians transformed an indigenous stone idol from Manabí into a statue of Mary in pursuit of their cult to the Virgin of la Merced. The first inhabitants of Quito would come to her to beg for help, especially in times of volcanic eruptions or earthquakes. For this reason, the town council, in 1575, proclaimed September 8th as a day of thanksgiving to the Virgin of la Merced for saving the city from catastrophe, when in the midst of a great storm of thunder and lightning, a rain of ash darkened the city.
The pilgrim of Quito
With the aim of collecting the necessary funds for the works and decoration of the temple, the Mercedarians took off on a pilgrimage around America in 1706 with a small statue of the virgin. The journey ended in the Spanish city of Cádiz in 1733. The statue was very popular in Spanish America, and was baptized La Peregrina de Quito. The historic statue appears to have been destroyed in the Spanish civil war.