This colonial church, Iglesia de San Francisco at Cuenca 469 (street) oozes in history. Once adjacent to that of an Incan palace, this site claims among its many functions... an open market, a bullring and a theater. People gathered here for every occasion since TV didn't exist as an option.
Before the Franciscans came, mercado Tianguez reigned. That was in the 16th Century, 1532, and it took 120 years to construct the church over the ruins of Huayna Capac... with manual labor.
The adjacent museum consists mostly of historical art exhibiting the methods used, and the who was who of the artists.
Quito cucuruchos - the lenten penitents in the long pointed purple head gear and gowns - gather here on Good Friday to claim the crosses strung alongside the iglesia walls to carry them in imitation of their beloved Cristo del Gran Poder (Christ Most Powerful).
These may be men, women and/or children. Women take the name of Veronicas. All volunteer. They tell me the pointed head gear represents the many sins of the penitent.
Here begins their procession uphill to the Basilica and back. Most go barefoot. Many carry crosses. Some drag chains attached to their ankles. Some make their way up in wheelchairs, and still visibly do penance. The green plant some have draped against their skin causes itching and rash.
The enormous hand-pulled cart carrying the huge statue of Cristo del Gran Poder leads the way. With the processing crowd so thick close to the statue, there's no room to get out, but somehow the crowd opens up just enough to let someone out if the need arises.
By this time, the cucuruchos have already left with their penitential procession except for some stragglers coming after the Cristo.
The rhythmic chanting and praying never cease until the end of the procession back at Iglesia de San Francisco.
Devotion to the Christ Most Powerful - that began after a man cutting a tree saw the image imprint of Christ carrying the cross in the wood of the tree he had just sliced - predominates in this church. The original got too old and fragile to carry in the procession, and is preserved inside the Carmen Alto convent.
Remodeling modernized and changed the mood. The mirrors in the place of the tabernacle don't reflect the reverence due the body of Christ. The side chapel houses Him for adoration as if His place is secondary to the priest.
The chapel of Cantuno, pronounced "Cantunio" to the left of the same building offered daily Mass, and Santa Clara contributed Sunday Mass during the remodeling... and both continue to do so.
A story of how Cantuno was miraculously built circulates about an indigenous who traded his soul to the devil in order to get help from him to finish by the deadline. The devil lost because of a technicality. Take the tour and ask the guide for the full story, or eat at the Plaza Hotel...they sometimes have the story on the placemat...in Spanish, of course.
This colonial iglesia resounds Easter morning throughout the historic center in angelic alleluias from the Misa campal (outdoor Mass). The joy rings out as enormous as the profound penance that just ended! The mood uplifts and celebration dominates. This colonial church of San Francisco ranks high on the must-see list.
Good craft stores surround the area.
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