Old Cathedral of Cuenca
|Church of the Shrine
Iglesia del Sagrario (Spanish)
The Church of the Shrine (Spanish: Iglesia del Sagrario) — commonly referred to as the Old Cathedral of Cuenca (Spanish: Catedral Vieja de Cuenca) — was the main place of Spanish worship during the time of Spanish colonization in Cuenca, Ecuador. It functions today as the Museum for Religious Art and is located at the Parque Calderon, opposite the New Cathedral.
Planning for the church started in 1557 and construction began ten years later, using stones for the foundation and walls from the ruins of Tomebamba. During the colonial period the church was the main center of worship for the "Parish of the Spaniards"; it was reserved for the people from Spain, while indigenous people had to stay outside or worship elsewhere. The organ was added in 1739, and the clock was set in the tower in 1751. In 1787 the bishopric was established in Cuenca, and the church became a cathedral. The new tower erected in 1868 carries a memorial plate: Torre más célebre que las pirámides de Egipto ("Tower more famous than the Egyptian pyramids") in reference to the use of the old tower as a key reference point for the French Geodesic Mission in 1736, which determined the arc of the meridian. In 1880 construction for the New Cathedral was begun. With the consecration of the New Cathedral, the Old Cathedral ceased to be used for regular services. After a major renovation that started in 1999 the Old Cathedral serves today as the "Museum for Religious Art" and a venue for concerts and cultural events. Among others it displays sculptures by Miguel Velez and Gaspar Sangurima and paintings by Daniel Alvorado and Nicholas Vivar.
The church has a structure typical of a colonial basilica, with three naves. There is a central altar, while the organ is located over the entrance. Walls are decorated in light pastel colors. Displayed also is a set of life-size carved figures representing Jesus and the apostles at the Last Supper. Though the cathedral has undergone a number of renovations, it has maintained its original character.