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Quito churches & cathedrals

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Santo Domingo church

Facade of Santo Domingo church in Quito Ecuador PichinchaAlthough the Dominicans came to Quito as early as 1541, they only began work on their priory in 1580, under the guidance of Francisco Becerra, the Spanish architect. Work was completed in the first half of the seventeenth century. There is a separate chapel beside the church itself, dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary, scene of the foundation, in later years, of the most important of the city's Guilds. Both the church and the chapel were finely decorated, with altar pieces, statues and paintings.

Little remains of this early decoration, and now only the mudéjar style wall facings are preserved. The chapel of the Rosary is another matter, however, and it has an exuberant rococo altar piece, is decorated , with golden figures against a scarlet background, columns with intermingled leaf and anthropomorphic designs, complicated pediments - all of which goes to make up a decorative whole of unusual complexity and beauty.

Fray Pedro Bedón worked in Santo Domingo from 1586 onwards, and he can rightly be considered the founder of the Quito school of painting. The carvings and paintings of this ingenious monk can still be seen in the chapel, and include an oil of St. Nicholas of Tolentino, the relief of the blessed Reginald receiving the Dominican scapulary from the hands of the Virgin, wonderfully carved in gold polychrome.

The tower of Santo Domingo seen from the cloister in Quito EcuadorDiego de Robles, who came from Toledo and was the author of the most admirable figures of the Virgin -those of Guápulo and Quinche- carved the figures of St. Pius V and St. Antony of Florence for the choir. They are now to be seen in the Dominican Museum, along with other carvings. Later the art treasures of the Dominicans were to be enriched by magnificent works by the great Quito sculptors: the figure of Santo Domingo de Guzmán by Padre Carlos, that of San Juan de Dios, by Caspicara, and Legarda's St. Thomas Aquinas. These treasures are to be seen in the museum on the north side of the lower cloister.

Other figures carved for the church and the chapel of the Dominicans remind us of deeply-rooted popular devotion. These include the beautiful nativity scene by Caspicara, with the Child lying down, fast asleep, and the Virgin and St. Joseph tenderly watching over Him, utterly absorbed. Both these figures are very richly painted. The Madonna and Child, with a Virgin of mixed race, her serious face lost in thought. The Virgin of the Dawn, frequently carried in the dawn processions known as "Rosaries of the Dawn". The priory itself contains a cloister with a very fine first floor supported by sturdy octagonal pillars and arches, and the cloister surrounds a charming garden area.



























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