Catedral Vieja

#14 Old Cathedral of Cuenca, Calles Luis Cordero y Mariscal Sucre

Construction commenced immediately after the Spanish foundation of Cuenca on April 12 1557, when Captain-Governor Gil Ramirez Davalos designated a block of land on the east side of the Main Square (present day Plaza Calderon) for the construction of a shrine. The walls are of adobe with Inca stone foundations extracted from the ruins at Pumapungo.

The church was erected thanks to the “mingas” system. By 1573 the church, with its altars and chapels was finished. The master builder was the carpenter Francisco de San Miguel, although other builders also participated as the present day church is the result of a series of alterations, extensions and renovations.

The tower standing today was designed by Colonel Francisco Eugenio Tamariz in 1867 and is of brick construction.

The pulpit inside the cathedral is the work of the local sculptor Gaspar Sangurima and was made in 1817. The choir is accessed via a spiral staircase built in 1823. On the right aisle, accessed their own archways, are three private chapels belonging to wealthy families of the time.

This marble plaque over the south door of the cathedral reads ” This tower is more famous than the Eygptian pyramids.”. The old tower was used by the French Geodesic Mission as a key reference point in 1736, which determined the arc of the meridian.

It was the custom of churches in the 16th century to sell graves inside the church, so that important and religious people could be closer to God. This is the cover of the Crypt.

This might be one of the oldest photos of El Centro Cuenca, showing the Old Cathedral on the east side of the Plaza – circa 1870’s.

In 1779 the diocese of Cuenca was created and the local clergy became interested in building a new cathedral. As a result, the church fell into a state of neglect on several occasions as all the available funding was allocated to the new building. 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.

The date on the bell is 1681.