Guapulo Colonial Church and Convent - not in the historic center - go way back to 1596 emerging from an ancient hermitage. The building now standing made its debut in 1649 cradling itself in a bowl of hills this side of Tumbaco Valley and Cumbaya.
El Mirador lookout point at the top of the cliff, where the indigenous sell their crafts, remains a favorite for shooting great photos. "Lookout point" translates into "mirador" explaining the term for any lookout point in Ecuador.
A couple of blocks from Hotel Quito, a concrete trail of steps leads as the shortest way down, or you can walk to the fork in the road, turn left and trek down the road. I did.
You may prefer descending by tour or taxi, just be aware that the one-way road going down prevents you from returning to the mirador. Only a hike uphill gives you a chance to again buy crafts at the top of the cliff.
Once you get used to riding the bus, buses come and go. Until then, taxi it.
Federico Gonzales Suarez, a historian, dubbed Guapulo Church and Convent the big potato, also acclaimed as the architectural jewel of the century. The 1935 retablo - sculpted by brothers Leonardo and Miguel Angel Tejada - gleams in cedar bathed in gold leaf.
The pulpit - sculpted by Juan Bautista Menacho and the finish by someone else - includes a replica of his faithful dog, his constant companion, carved alongside the pulpit.
A drought descended on Quito and surrounding area in 1696, and the faithful processed from Guapulo for miles to the historic Iglesia de San Francisco to ask divine intervention to end it. Subsequently, the rain poured with an apparition of Mary on a cloud, whom they named Nuestra Senora de La Nube (Our Lady of the Cloud).
Devotion to the Virgin of the Cloud spread to Lima, Peru, where they still honor her. In the city of Azogues, every New Year's Day, a procession for her - organized by the Franciscans - proceeds in ardent prayer and song. Franciscans constructed a large sanctuary for her there.
Even in the U.S., Ecuadorians introduced devotion to her, and a Mass celebrates her on December 17 at St. Patrick's Cathedral in downtown Manhattan.
In Guapulo, a painting - of another procession prayer pilgrimage for the healing of an ill priest and its favorable results from prayers to the Virgin of the Cloud - gives witness to the profound faith practiced here in the days of far fewer distractions.
Guapulo Church persists priceless as one of the colonials of Quito, although the convent evolved into a school. The museum houses art and artifacts from the earliest times of this temple.
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