Church and Convent of Saint Augustine
Located just a block away from Quito’s Independence Plaza, the Church and Convent of Saint Augustine is a superb example of 17th century architecture and an important part of Ecuado’s history, being the site where the country’s declaration of independence was signed on August 10, 1809. Many of the heroes who perished in the fight for Ecuador’s independence are buried at this historic landmark, which should be an item on the itinerary of everyone visiting Ecuador’s capital city.
Plans for Saint Augustine’s Convent were drawn up by architect Francisco Becerra in 1580, and its construction was started in 1606 with the project being completed in 1650. Interestingly, building materials for the convent consisted mostly of rocks from the Pichincha volcano. The decorative interior features a number of artworks by renowned artists, including 25 canvases by Miguel de Santiago. A series of canvases depicting the life of Saint Augustine are also on display, along with twelve unsigned canvases believed to have been painted by members of the 17th century Quito School. There are also two large canvases by 19th century artist Luis Cadena.
Built around a picturesque courtyard with a fountain, the convent is a haven of tranquility. A series of corridors in the convent feature Tuscan Doric columns and cambered arches, with the eastern corridor featuring geometric figures with pine cones, flora decorations and gold leaf. While this intricate design had also been used in the other corridors, they were vandalised and destroyed in 1895 when the building was being used as military quarters. The third floor of the convent was built in 1943 out of cement, rather than stone and glass, but follows the same structural details and blends in seamlessly.
Considered to be one of the most colorful churches in Quito, the interior of Saint Augustine Church features drawings, paintings, figures, and portraits of different saints. With a series of cambered arches edged in gold and painted blue-green, each of the five lateral naves has a small altar carved in wood and covered with gold leaf. The main altar is in the same style as the smaller ones but includes lilac-colored marble.
The ornate tower of the Saint Augustine Convent stands at a height of 40 meters and is a prominent landmark in this historic area of Quito. Visitors should be sure to spend some time in the Miguel de Santiago Museum at the convent to view the paintings of the renowned artist and some of his students.