Basilica of the National Vow: Quito's Neogothic Church

Get to know the Basilica of the National Vow

The Basilica of the National Vow, located atop a hill at the northern outskirt of Quito’s historic downtown, observes the city spread out below it like steady, distant giant. The Ecuadorian capital has undergone many transformations since the idea of the Basilica came to light in the year 1883, suggested by Father Julio Matovelle’s, at the time a congressman of the Ecuadorian Republic. Even though it was president Luis Cordero Crespo who signed the official decree ordering the construction of this project, the work of the Basilica began under President Jose Maria Placido Caamaño a year later.

The Biggest Neogothic Church in South America

The Basilica is devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and under the supervision of French architect, Emilio Tarlier, it was to be designed after the famous Notre Dame of Paris and the Cathedral of Burgos in Spain. The Basilica is 140 metres long, with its two towers reaching a height of 115 meters, making it South America’s highest neogothic church. It holds 24 chapels that represent the number of provinces in Ecuador. The church is designed in the shape of a Latin cross, as is common for most large gothic churches, with the main nave comprising the body of the structure.  It has seven doors, three for the façade and four on the sides. It holds an underground crypt and an austere pantheon where several Ecuadorian Heads of State are buried.

View of the Basilica from San Juan neighbourhood, where it is located

View of the Basilica from San Juan neighbourhood, where it is located

The Ecuadorian Touch at the Basilica of the National Vow

The Basilica of the National Vow can be seen from almost anywhere in downtown Quito. It looks pretty omniscient, with its towering presence overlooking the capital. From afar, it can be easily said that it holds all the characteristics of a proper neogothic church.  Yet, if looked at closely, certain details in its decoration will catch the eyes of skilled visitors.
For those who have had the chance to marvel at the greatness and the decorative intricacies of gothic churches in Europe, certain elements like the monstrous-looking gargoyles won’t be a surprise. In the case of the Basilica however, these traditional gargoyles were replaced by different species of animals that represent the rich biodiversity of the country. These include such animals as: condors, armadillos, Galapagos giant tortoises, and iguanas. Take advantage of your visit to Ecuador and see some of these animals first-hand on an unforgettable Galapagos Cruise!

Galapagos giant tortoises gargoyles. Photo taken from www.swerdloff.us

Galapagos giant tortoises gargoyles. Photo taken from www.swerdloff.us

What to do in the Basilica?

Visitors have several options to get acquainted with this special building. If you are looking for a more relaxed option, feel free to walk around the main nave and surrounding patios. If you are feeling a more active experience of the Basilica, take the elevator located at one of the main towers (or the stairs if you have gotten used to Quito’s altitude of 2,850 metres (9,350 ft)) and go up to the last floors, where you will find a picturesque cafeteria and a small museum. Just don’t get distracted from what really matters – the amazing views of the city to be seen from the very top of the tower. Catch your breath and have your camera ready for an amazing shot!
While visiting Quito’s World Heritage downtown, complete your visit by staying at one of the city’s best and most renowned hotels, Casa Gangotena. And don’t miss the chance to visit this peculiar, eccentric, eye-catching, and bold neogothic basilica.

Night view of the Basilica of the National Vote

Night view of the Basilica of the National Vote

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Nathalie Moeller is of Ecuadorian and German descent. As a child she spent her summers in the Galapagos Islands, where her mother grew up, and from a very young age learned to love the beauty and uniqueness of the archipelago. She studied Journalism and Humanities in Barcelona, after living in Madrid and Germany for a couple of years. This gave her a culturally broader view of the world, which is reflected in everything she does. Blogging gives her the opportunity to combine her passion for travelling and writing.

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