Iglesia de Todos Santos

Bajada Todos Santos y Calle Larga

The place where Iglesia Todos Santos is today, originally was an indigenous shrine with the name of Usno. When the Spanish occupations began in Cuenca, the first Catholic masses were celebrated in this same temple in 1540. Spaniard Rodrigo Núñez de Bonilla, is attributed with the construction of the first Catholic church built on this site in 1557.

 The current structure was built in 1820, following instructions from Bishop Miguel Leon. Garrido. In 1895 the chapel and surrounding grounds were donated to the Oblate nuns . The complex was built including the church, the school, and the convent. The Oblates nuns ran a school which was the first to offer free education to indigenous girls.

In March 1924 it was given the name “Todos Santos’ due to the variety of saints that were inside. One of Cuenca’s historic boundary crosses stands outside, one of several in the city.

In 2005 a disastrous fire destoyed a large portion of the church and the semi-cloister convent in which the Oblates nuns live, and in 2007 there was another fire. From 2007 to 2014 there was a long process of restoration. In January 2014 the Oblate Sister of the Most Holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary, after seven years of restoration opened the church to show this hidden gem of Cuenca.

Cuenca, old and new on Calle Larga…..

During the restoration the restorers found murals from the early 1900’s which had been covered over by several layers of white paint. The wooden stairs to the tower were repaired to provide safe access to the one of the best views of the city and the Tomebamba River.

The bells in the tower. You can see how old the wood is in these steps to the tower.

There is a life-sized statue of Jesus in the tower. There is only enough room for maybe one or two other people.

Sister Ruth is giving a tour of the garden. The rear garden facing the Tomebamba River is a well tended native garden, where the stone terraces built by the ancient Canaris are visible again, and provide a backdrop and support for the walkways and planting beds filled with herbs, and organic fruits and vegetables, oregano, cedron, dill, cilantro, celery, and colorful flowers.

This very old key is the actual key to the garden door.

The Todosantos bakery was famous in the city and the smell of fresh bread, characterized the neighborhood for decades until the mid-twentieth century when the old wood-burning oven stopped working due to the deterioration of the adobe and bahareque structure that housed it. The historic wood-burning oven was recovered in the conservation project.

Previously the popular Todosantos restaurant was in the basement of the nuns convent.

Note the curved contours of the adobe/bahareque walls. One of the murals that was discovered hidden for many years under layers of white-washed paint, and restored in place.

This chair is from the 16th century (1500’s).

Todos Santos at night from the Tomebamba River. Photo on the right is from the 1950’s of the Iglesia, and Bajada de Todos Santos.