Thursday, February 11, 2010

Snow and Sunshine and Closed Doors

Sunshine and Mountains

Baltimore is paralyzed during the worst (best?) snowstorm in history, with over 90 cm of new snow. Meanwhile, the sun shines daily (relentlessly?) in Quito, and I appreciate the wonderful springlike weather, but I miss snow, and wish I could be marooned in my house waiting for the snow to melt! It never snows in Ecuador, except at the top of the tallest peaks. Cotopaxi, Cayambe, Cimborazo, Antisana, are all covered with glaciers (which are melting due to global warming), so I am looking forward to a glimpse of Cotopaxi when we drive down to Ambato on Saturday. Perhaps I will have to get closer and smell and touch the snow to remind myself of the feeling.

My wanderings in the Centro Historico are directed by closed and open doors. Many of the sites are closed when I choose to visit, so that when I see an open door, I must take advantage and enter, since I never know when that door will be open again. I walked up from La Marin today, past San Augustin and through a packed Plaza Grande. I was looking for the 'Chapel of the Miracle' , which is located behind 'La Compañia'. I was confused when I first tried to see the Monastery where the Jesuit monks live, and was kindly informed that I was not permitted to enter, and walked further to find the chapel, but was refused entry since I was clearly not there for the prayer vigil. A miracle occurred in the early part of the twentieth century when an image of the Virgin Mary moved its eyes for fifteen minutes in front of a group of students.

I walked on to the Plaza San Francisco, where the church is usually closed due to restoration work, although it was open last Saturday during a 'Quinceanera' ceremony, and has actually been open several times since November. I was more interested in the Catuña chapel nearby, dedicated to the Virgin of Sorrows. Catuña was an indigenous man adopted by a Spaniard, from whom he inherited a fortune, which he donated to the church. He gave so much that rumours spread that he may have had Atahualpa's treasure and was melting it down bit by bit, or he had sold his soul to the devil to be able to build the chapel. Catuña was closed, as was the chapel nearby and the church.

ShoeShiners in Plaza San Fransisco

La Catuña

San Fansisco Pigeons

San Fransisco Chapel

San Fransisco Church Closed

I walked toward the open doors of La Merced, and spent time admiring the gold baroque altars. The Virgin Mary of Mercy is all over the church. She is believed to have saved Quito countless times, from earthquakes and other disasters, from political enemies and plagues and oppressors. People came to pray at La Merced when there were tremors, and in 1963 the government consecrated the Armed forces to the Virgin of Mercy, so there are military flags throughout the church.

Open Doors at La Merced

Altar at La Merced

Walls in La Merced

Ceiling La Merced

Monastery Doors

Doors Closed La Merced

The monastery doors were closed. I ventured above and around the San Fransisco Monastery to see the cross in the wall. There is a story that an otherwise very good monk would escape from the convent each night to carouse in the city, and one night when he came home he picked up an abandoned child who turned out to be the devil. The priest was horrified and grabbed his cross and rosary and begged God for help and the devil disappeared in a puff of sulfur. The priest was so relieved that he had a cross erected on the wall to remind the other priests to avoid temptation. I saw three crosses along the very long wall of the convent.

View Up From 24 de Mayo

I walked along 24 de Mayo street to a beautiful view of Pichincha to my right and the Panecillo ahead of me. I was looking for the Chapel of the Robbery, built after robbers stole some treasures from the Convent of Santa Clara. The thieves threw the loot away when they discovered that what they had stolen was worthless. A chapel was built at the spot where the stolen goods were found. The chapel was closed as was the Santa Clara convent and church around the corner on Cuenca street. I was surprised to see the doors of Carmen Alto open, but when I entered I discovered that the altar and chapels were covered in plastic. The floors had been replaced and dust was everywhere. It was eerie because I was the only person around, yet it appeared that men had been working until just before I came in. Mariana de Jesus had spent much time in the convent and there is a statue of her right in front of the church.

I walked down Rocafuerte Street to Plaza Santo Domingo, where I could not find the chapels I was looking for and found the doors to the church and the monsastery closed. I am not sure if there is any significance to encountering closed doors at every turn today. Some of the doors may never be open to tourists. I ventured further into the parts of the Centro Historico which were clearly not frequented by visitors. I saw no other tourists, I was stared at and commented about, I was a little anxious, not wanting to get lost or worse, but I also felt privileged to explore and experience new parts of the city I have never seen.

No comments:

Post a Comment