One of the most famous sites in Cuenca, a city known for its historic center and colonial buildings, is not very old at all. While construction of the New Cathedral began in the 1880s, completion took almost 100 years. The church was consecrated in 1967, a little less than 50 years ago. Some still consider the building unfinished as the original plans included two very taller towers on the facade which were never built because of a calculation error and the foundation of the church was not strong enough to support the planned height.
The Cathedral is a monument to European artistry. The style of architecture is predominately Romanesque Revival, harking back to the architect’s place of birth, the Alsace. The domes are covered in blue and white glazed tile that was made in Czechoslovakia. While some of the marble comes from local Ecuadorian sources, the rose colored stones found in the floor were imported from Italy. The stained glass windows were created by a Spanish artist and made with antique glass that came from France. The carved canopy that sits over the altar is similar to one found in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.
The ties to Europe echo throughout the Cathedral. In fact, they echo throughout Cuenca, which is considered one of the more European-style cities in Ecuador.
I’m not sure which I enjoyed more, the people watching outside the Cathedral or the art stroll inside. Cuenca is a bustling city on most weekdays and the church is a quiet escape for many Cuencanos. There will always be people at prayer while the church doors are open yet children can be found playing soccer on the steps immediately outside.
Tickets can be purchased to visit the crypt and the domes. The latter requires a climb of about 150 stairs so arrive in comfortable shoes! On our last visit, the entrance fee was only a couple of dollars. Unfortunately, the church does not have an easily found website with entrance times, holidays, or a fee schedule. Our recommendation is to show up in the morning, around 9 am, and ask at the ticket booth for exact hours. Remember that Cuenca is an extremely Catholic city and that the church is first and foremost a place of worship and that tourists are discouraged from visiting during Mass unless they are participating in the service.
The New Cathedral
Information For Your Trip
Visiting the New Cathedral can be combined with a walking tour of Cuenca. The city is amazingly pedestrian friendly.