A Little History of Cuenca

While in Ecuador, we got an up close and personal look at some of the oldest buildings we had ever seen. Even the hotel we stayed in was built in the colonial style, probably for a well-to-do Spanish family in the early days of Spain’s colonization. 20160721_155845

We walked narrow cobbled streets built for horse traffic. And they have traffic snarls morning and night, just like home. I was glad we were walking. Because of our convenient location, you could always find your way back. Just look for the cathedral.

From the ancient Incan ruins at Ingapirca, to the beautiful cathedrals of downtown Cuenca, I was enthralled. I do love history.

In these photos, you can see exactly what went into building this particular (now dilapidated) location. This is what you would find if you began to disassemble most of the downtown buildings. The really old ones, anyway. Can’t you just imagine the native workers creating the mud and straw construction? Another fine example of slave labor, I imagine. I couldn’t help thinking of the ancient Egyptians, who forced the Hebrew slaves to cut their own straw for the brick-making process. I guess it might’ve looked a little like this.

Earlier in the week, we’d spent some time snooping around the old cathedral. Built in 1557, the year Cuenca was founded, it’s called Iglesia de El Sagrario. I was shocked at what lay inside of the ordinary looking exterior. The early Spaniards put some money into this thing. Then they made huge contributions in order to secure burial beneath the sanctuary. This pretty much sealed their entrance into paradise. Or so they believed. These families had beautiful rooms built on either side of the main sanctuary, where they could come and pray in privacy.

It was not built for the masses. It was built exclusively for those of Spanish descent. The locals had to worship outside. Still impressive. I enjoyed the tour.

13707633_10207480945561661_3690816263750498409_nThere is Spanish influence throughout the city.  Many of the other buildings show the exquisite workmanship of the Incas, with their extremely straight cuts through solid rock, forming square foundation stones that fit together with precision. In many places, the outer plastering has been removed so the stones can be plainly seen and admired.

The new cathedral was completed in 1975, took 90 years to complete, and is called the Catedral Metroploitana de la Immaculada Concepcion. Unlike its predecessor, this new church was meant to include everyone, no matter what caste or nationality. If you’re Catholic, you’re welcome. If you’re not Catholic, you’re still welcome to visit and ogle, which is exactly what we did. We climbed the tower to the rooftop which affords a breathtaking view of Cuenca.

13697202_10207511051034279_7378325463621388261_nThe climb is breathtaking, too. A spiral staircase, winding up and up and up. I almost quit and headed back down. It’s a good thing they’ve placed windows at regular intervals. When I finally arrived, I had to pause a few moments. 🙂 If you’ve ever climbed a lighthouse, you’ll know what it was like.

You want to pause once you reach the top anyway, and take it all in. I thought the inside of the cathedral was gorgeous, but this view! Oh, Cuenca! Mountains! Beauty everywhere.

At the risk of conjuring up old memories of next-door neighbors inviting you over to show you their vacation slides (kids, you have no idea how lucky you are not to have to endure those), I will stop here.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little tour. Suffice it to say, we were wowed by Cuenca, Ecuador and all it had to offer. I’m still processing all that happened during those few short days of service. But I know this–our lives changed and God planted wonderful friendships that I hope will never fade.






3 thoughts on “A Little History of Cuenca

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