The Churches and Cathedrals of Loja

Referred to as the Music and Cultural Capital of Ecuador, the picturesque city of Loja is located in Cuxibamba valley, experiencing a mild Andean climate that adds to its appeal as a tourist destination. Founded in 1548 it is one of the country’s oldest cities and is home to a wealth of well-preserved historical and architectural treasures, a number of which are churches and cathedrals.

Built in 1557, the Church of Santo Domingo was badly damaged in 1867, destroying its Gothic façade and leaving only its twin spires standing. The rebuilding of the church was done in the colonial style popular at the time, with the twin spires being incorporated into the design. A monument to Manuel Carrión Pinzano stands in the plaza of the church, honoring him as a founder of the Federalism movement in 1853.

Featuring a monument dedicated to the founder of the city, Alonso de Mercadillo, the Church of San Francisco incorporates the Franciscan Convent of Loja. Built in 1548, and rebuilt in 1851, the church is located on the corner of Bolivar and Colon avenues. Franciscans belong to a religious order adhering to the teachings of Saint Francis of Assisi, advocating a life of apostolic poverty.

The Church of St Sebastian has also been rebuilt since the city of Loja was consecrated to the Saint in 1660, seeking protection from destruction by earthquakes. The present church dates back to 1900 and stands on the Plaza San Sebastian which is home to one of Loja’s most spectacular landmarks – a 32 meter high clock tower commemorating the declaration of independence from Spain in 1820.

The main Cathedral of Loja is a superb example of colonial style architecture. Located on the city’s central square, the current cathedral dates back to 1838, having been rebuilt when the original 16th century building was damaged due to an earthquake. It is one of Ecuador’s largest churches and is the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Loja. For six months each year the cathedral is home to the statue of the Virgin of Cisne, which spends the other six months of the year in the town of Cisne located 45 kilometers north of Loja. Twice a year a procession of believers carry the statue on their backs between the two cities. Participating in this procession is considered to be a great honor.