Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of Cuenca, also called Cuenca Cathedral, or New Cathedral, is a Catholic church located in the city of Cuenca - Ecuador. Renaissance Gothic style with three domes protruding from the roof was inspired by the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome, construction began in 1885 and ended 100 years later in 1985, is one of the greatest architectural attractions of the country together to the Basilica of the National Vote in Quito. Fit 8000 people inside and attracts hundreds of daily Catholic devotees.

The plans of the temple were made by Juan Bautista Stiehle with 105 meters long and 43.5 meters wide, the height of the central dome is 53 meters and its diameter is 12 meters and a crypt of 96 meters long, 12 wide and 4 long, with capacity for three thousand people. The two front towers at the beginning also had domes but because of architectural failures they were not built, the construction was in charge of Bishop Miguel León Garrido.

Description of spaces of the Cathedral of Cuenca

The Cathedral of Cuenca has spaces that are common in other churches, although it also has some that are unique, since it is the city's Bishop Church. Each of the existing spaces is described below:

Central nave of the Cathedral of Cuenca

This is the largest space, in which the faithful who will participate in the different ceremonies congregate. It limits with the Lateral Ships by the columns of the same structure of the building. The latter are arranged equidistant from each other, and symmetrically with respect to the center. In addition, they are joined by semicircular arches (which is a characteristic of Romanesque architecture). It has a western limit to the west with the Presbytery for the difference in level.

Once inside the Cathedral, there is a feeling of being tiny, given the spaciousness of the Central Ship's space. In addition, the low light that filters through the windows creates an environment for meditation and reflection

Lateral ships of the Cathedral of Cuenca

There are two, which are located symmetrically on the sides of the Central Ship. For this reason, they limit with the outside by the walls that form the body of the building. In addition, both have similar characteristics. Comparing them with the Central Ship, they have a lower height, although they maintain the same depth. Its vaults have a cannon style, which are based on columns joined by Romanesque arches that complement the structure of the building. Between the columns that protrude from the walls, spaces (niches) are formed, which house the side altars.

The main function of these ships is that of circulation, since, when there are high attendance ceremonies, these spaces are occupied by the faithful, increasing the total congregation capacity of the Cathedral.

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Lateral Altars of the Cathedral of Cuenca

There are eleven altars located in the Lateral Ships. They are located in the niches (formed by the columns and walls that divide them), spaces designed for this purpose. These altars respond to the faith of the Cuenca people, raised to different saints who are professed devotion. Each of them have different characteristics:

Altar of Santa Marianita: made with basin marble, it was designed and built by the basin craftsman César Quishpe. It is made up of regular volumes that are arranged one above the other, forming a pedestal on which the sculpture of the Saint is based. On the pedestal rises a niche crowned by a semicircular arch, which shows an integration of the altar with the architecture of the temple. A Mass in his honor is celebrated every May 26.

Altar of the Blessed Sacrament: one of the most visited altars in the entire Cathedral. Here a daily mass is celebrated and the Christ of the Eucharist is exposed. Built in marble, and forms three volumes of different dimensions that serve as the basis. Above these stands an archery that supports three recessed arches, forming a niche that houses the sculptural ensemble that represents the Holy Trinity. All this set is of colonial origin, passed from the Old Cathedral to the New.

Altar of the Lord of Good Hope: together with the Altar of the Blessed Sacrament and that of the Dolorosa were the first altars placed in the Cathedral before its consecration. In the same way as with the Altar of the Blessed Sacrament, he was transferred from the Old Cathedral to the New. This altar has a different style from the rest, because it mixes Gothic and Baroque elements (ogival arches, Solomonic columns, curved lines, etc.).

Alta de la Dolorosa: this is different from the rest of the altars because of its wooden construction, decorated with gold leaf lines. It was made by artisans from Quito. It is formed by columns of circular section seated on a pedestal. The painting of the Sorrowful Virgin is in a niche, topped by a frieze. This niche consists of four columns, joined by semicircular arches, and a shell. This altar is crowned by a kind of bulrush formed by three lowered arches. A Mass is celebrated every April 20 in honor of the Sorrowful Virgin.

Altar of Santa Ana: built in marble, it was designed and elaborated by the craftsman César Quishpe. Formed by a pedestal of straight volumes, on which is located a niche covered by semicircular arches that houses the sculpture. No mass is celebrated here, since it is the Patroness of the city, and its mass is performed in the High Altar on July 26 of each.

Altar of Brother Miguel: another altar designed and built in marble by César Quishpe. He was installed in the Cathedral on October 30, 1977, the beatification date of the Holy Basin. His statue was made in Rome. The altar as such, is formed by two semicircular arches joined with recessed columns, seated on a regular volume that serves as the base. A Mass in his honor is celebrated every February 9

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Altar of the Tabernacle

Made of wood and coated in gold leaf. It is located on a Carrara marble staircase with basin marble. It contains interior niches, in which there are three sculptures of great beauty and simplicity. On this altar sits the bronze tabernacle, brought from Europe. Finally, it is complemented by a somewhat dark-colored Christ, made in Spain, and acquired by Monsignor Manuel de Jesús Serrano Abad, in 1963.2

This is the main element that stands out from inside the entire Cathedral. It is made of cedar wood, and carved and completely bathed with gold leaf. Its shape mimics the canopy of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Its construction was entrusted to the Salesians, and it was Father Carlos Crespi who brought Brother Pedro Gazzoli to execute him. Laminated gold plates were purchased in Germany.

Main Altar of the Cathedral of Cuenca

Located a few meters in front of the Altar del Sagrario. It is a table built with twelve Solomonic bronze columns, on which a single three-meter-long marble plate sits. It was designed by the architect Gastón Ramírez S. (for the 1967 Eucharistic Congress), and built by the sculptor Césas Quishpe, who also built the ambones that are located on the sides of the Presbytery.

Choir of the Canons of the Cathedral of Cuenca

In the apse, around the Main Altar, a space is conceived for the Canons, who are the group of prelates who form the Cathedral Council, to advise the Bishop in his government. In this space, some carefully designed and decorated seats are located. Their number depends on the amount of canons of the Diocese, being twenty-one in the Cathedral. At present, this Chapter does not exist because of the lack of a priest. One of the activities of the canons in a Cathedral is to sing the liturgical hours and participate in the celebrations that the Bishop presides.

Crypt of the Cathedral of Cuenca

The crypt of the cathedral is located under the central nave and has three accesses: one through Aguirre Street, another through the Sacristy and a third is in Mariscal Sucre Street. The shape of this crypt is that of a long alley with funerary vaults on each side.

In the Crypt some of the illustrious personages of the city of Cuenca are buried like: Remigio Crespo Toral, Gral. Antonio Vega, Fray Vicente Solano; as bishops of the city: Miguel León, Manuel María Politica, Daniel Hermida, Monsignor Manuel Serrano Abad; and the builder of the cathedral: Luis Antonio Chicaiza.

Domes of the cathedral of Cuenca

The Cathedral of Cuenca has six domes that are located above the pre-ministry and the Central Nave. They are divided into three high and three low that are interspersed in their location. All domes have a flashlight inside. The three high domes and one of the low ones are covered by tile while the others maintain the brick structure.

The high domes have a Renaissance style, the largest is on the Cruise and has an internal diameter of 12 meters and has a height of 53 meters.

Terrace of Santa Ana of the Cathedral of Cuenca

On the East Choir, between the Towers, the Terrace is located. This is a wide and open space, which borders the main facade by the balustrade that tops it. In the center is the sculpture of Santa Ana, patron of the city of Cuenca. Due to its location, at a height of thirty meters above street level, the Terrace is an excellent viewpoint, and allows you to observe the urban landscape of the city in all directions.

Towers of the Cathedral of Cuenca

On the lateral accesses in the front facade, two Towers stand out: North and South. Both have the same characteristics: quadrangular base, and are located symmetrically with respect to the center of the facade arch. However, these are inconclusive, as two sections and their respective points are missing. The original proposals of these missing parts are of Gothic characteristics.

Inside, the vertical guideline dominates the space, in which large windows with semicircular arches open. All this harmonizes with the rest of the building. Additionally, the Towers were designed to house bells, clocks and vertical connectors. This would connect the Side Ships with the East Choir and with the Santa Ana Terrace

 Photo Cuenca Cathedral Ecuador