More than seven churches

A historic tour at the city of Cuenca

By Ramón Navarro

Easter Special

A walk through the historic center of Cuenca arouses curiosities and introduces one to the various Christian church architectures present in the city that conveys the presence of Christianity and welcomes all.

One witnesses a kind of European city replica where churches define part of the character of the Cuenca. On December 1, 1999, Unesco declared Cuenca a Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The churches, cathedrals, and basilicas served as a beautiful enticement for the international body to be convinced that Cuenca’s Catholic roots and architecture provide an enrichment of culture to anyone that transits the city on foot.

Cuenca’s sacred structures, with remarkable colonial, Baroque, Renaissance, and Gothic influence was of evangelizing influence and magnitude – beyond the Spanish Conquest – that religious congregations were located in some sectors in the center of the city. These congregations were able to select the land and exhibited the strong participation of Christianity within the community.

Three centuries later, the historic basin continues to offer the itinerary of the Seven Churches whose origins are associated with those groups that founded the spaces they occupy in the center of the city and they are key aspect of Christian Easter celebration.

There are a little more than fifty churches in the vivacious city of Cuenca. They are located in various directions of the city. If one is on a holy journey through the city to visit all the churches, the anxiety of visiting all can be challenging.

It is the seven churches within the center of the city that are normally considered obligatory at the time of a holy or inquisitive journey. Most churches are over a hundred years old, but there is one that deserves special treatment, the Old Cathedral. It has a birth certificate of 1557, the year of the founding of Santa Ana de los Cuatro Ríos de Cuenca, a place where the indigenous of the town were not allowed to enter.

Only the Spaniards. It was eventually more inclusive and today it only functions as the museum of religious art. It has a vibrant history and its mere mention reminds us that this church was then the cathedral in 1787 when the first bishop moved to Cuenca. It was instrumental in the French Geodesic Mission; whose purpose was to check and determine the shape of the Earth.

Now, neither the departure nor the arrival are fixed stations. The dynamics have changed the sanctuaries of prayers partly because of religious needs partly because of suggestions from those who consider it important to incorporate certain churches into the trip. Thus, for example, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception has corresponded to be the beginning in some seasons, as well as the Church of San Blas, the only one, of the entire repertoire, designed in the shape of a Latin cross.

In that sense there are primordial enclosures that are like letters of presentation of the event, such as the church of San Francisco, one of the most significant, with structure that was completed in 1920; the Church of San Alfonso, which was inaugurated in 1888; that of Santo Domingo, one of the most representative, which in 1934 was consecrated to the Blessed Virgin of the Rosary, as well as the unmissable Church of All Saints, which was rebuilt in 1924.

Other listed are the neoclassical and ancient San Sebastian, which stands out because it only offers a tower on the right side that is seen as an asymmetry and something unusual in the religious architecture of Cuenca; the San José del Vecino Church, formerly called San Cristóbal Chapel; the colonial Carmen de la Asunción, dating from 1730, and finally the Conceptas, which also integrates the colonial sphere since it began to be built in 1682.

All these temples are framed within a religious context that allows some places to be replaced from one year to the next given the considerable amount of sanctuaries that exist, a tradition that is sustained on an admirable devotion and social tolerance that combine the surrender of the tourist with the fervor of the cuencano.



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