Former Doctor Gonzalo Cordero Crespo House

This beautiful building was constructed between 1945 and 1952. Gonzalo Cordero Crespo was a prominent politician.  CIDAP was created in 1975, through an agreement between Ecuador and the Organization of American States OAS, which is dedicated to the promotion of Artisan craftsmanship and popular culture. In 1977 CIDAP rented the building for its cultural activities, and finally purchased the building in 1984.

Gonzalo Cordero Crespo hired a Spanish architect, Juan Orúz, based in Guayaquil, to design the building. The building is characterized by carved and polished stone used for the doors, windows, staircases, columns, and balustrades.

There is a story that a one-armed stonemason participated in the construction.  It is said he tied a chisel to his wrist to be able to hammer out the balusters, lintels and columns from blocks of grey Andean stone.

CIDAP showcases the continent’s artisans and handicrafts, with the purpose of strengthening culture and popular art in Ecuador and America. 

There are always amazing shows of handicrafts and art in this museum.  And the annual Fiestas Mercado in November which features artists and craftsmen from all over South America, Mexico, and Central America; centers around the CIDAP Museum. 

There is a side door to the building which opens onto to the Escalinata steps.

Escuela de Medicina/Museum of the University of Cuenca

The former School of Medicine of the University of Cuenca was built on this particular plot in 1916 because it was adjacent to the old St Vincent of Paul Hospital, therefore enabling students to obtain practice as well as theoretical training.

The main entrance has an exquisite wrought-iron semicircular gate.  The whole building is slightly raised from the pavement, accessed via short flight of steps in the fashion of a podium.

The project was promoted by Honorato Vázquez, Rector of the University, who also had a distinguished career as a diplomat, being Ecuador’s representative at the court of Madrid during the border conflicts thatoccurred in the country at the beginning of the 20th century. It occupied a privileged location on the banks of the River Tomebamba,

The handsome façade is entirely in exposed brick, in keeping with the style popular at the time.

A large interior courtyard held the classrooms and other facilities.

This courtyard is distinguished by a central gallery with twelve columns possibly added around 1930.  The gallery ceiling is of the polychrome brass variety.

A segmental arch displays a carved marble shield of the University of Cuenca at its centre. Still discernible above is a pinnacle inscribed with the date of construction, 1916.

An old Linotype Printing Press, and the letters used for the Printing Press.

The building was used as a site for the Cuenca International Bienal. Pictured here is an exhibit in the Bienal.

Situated on the west  is a corridor leading to an empty space outside that once accommodated tennis courts. In 1968 the School of Medicine moved but The University of Cuenca continues to own the building, and it is now the Museum of the University of Cuenca. 

Cuenca en La Noche

Cuenca is gorgeous all the time. But it is even more enchanting at night. “Cuenca doesn’t look like a sixteenth-century city that has been preserved; it looks like a city that has been in use since the sixteenth century.” Calvin Trillin

In Parque Calderon
Casa de Lira
Castillos for Corpus Christi
New Cathedral Domes
Plaza Otorango Steps
Old Cathedral
El Vado Steps
Old Cathedral Tower
Corte de Justicia
Iglesia de Todos Santos
Iglesia San Sebastian
El Vulcan in Calle de las Herrerias
Santuario Mariano
Old Cathedral
Casa de la familia Jerves Calero
Iglesia de Virgin de Bronce
Iglesia Santo Domingo
Iglesia de Santo Cenaculo
Monasterio de Conceptas
New Cathedral
Festival de Luces Santo Domingo
Cuenca Cemetary
Iglesia de Todos Santos

Museo de Medicina

Formerly the St Vincent of Paul Church and Hospital. 12 de April and Solano Avenue.

For over seven decades, these buildings accommodated the St Vincent of Paul Hospital, the city’s first health institution run by Social Welfare. It is accessed via a long exterior corridor that generates a slow approach, providing users with the time to admire the beautiful architectural features of the complex. Of handsome proportions, the church was designed by the German Redemptorist monk Juan B. Stiehle in the late 1890’s and was financed by Social Welfare with funds collected from donations and bequests.

Above the pediment,serving as the crest, is a statue of St Vincent of Paul.

An underground crypt contains 30 funeral vaults, in keeping with the old tradition of burying the dead in churches.

The complex was restored in 1986 by the architects Patricio Muñoz Vega and Gustavo Lloret Orellana, with funding from the Central Bank of Ecuador. Now it accommodates the Medicine Museum, and the church has been adapted to serve as the museum auditorium.

There are botanical gardens in the grounds and the complex is also one of the venues used for the Cuenca International Biennial.

The hospital facilities were organized in large wards around interior courtyards.

The church emerged as a consequence of the presence of the Sisters of Charity religious order, which attended the sick, and the need to keep vigil over those who died in the hospital.

Pediatric Ward


Thick adobe walls with deep set windows

Iglesia de la Merced

The Mercedarian Monastery in Cuenca was founded on 12 May 1712. Its first commander was Father Pablo de Santo Tomás, who initiated construction of the church and monastery. The latter was allocated to the Oblate Fathers, whose order was founded in the city of Cuenca by Father Padre Julio María Matovelle, the designer and builder of the church between 1884 and 1918.

There are two Castilian lions exquisitely carved on the front door.

In 1960 the Oblate Order decided to renovate the monastery, but the appearance of the church has remained relatively unchanged through the years. Inside, the church has low levels of natural light due to the fact that there are very few windows in the thick adobe walls of the church.

The middle of the carved wooden door displays the shield of Cuenca.

The left leaf of the door is decorated with an image of Our Lady of Grace,

The right leaf of the door displays the Mercedarian shield decorated with laurels and angels.

Located on one side of the church is Padre José María Matovelle Square, named after the founder of the Order of the Oblate Fathers in Cuenca. The square is distinguished by a concave stone wall carved with images associated with the foundation of the city, with a sculpture of Matovelle at its centre.

On the concave wall are images of the founding of the city and the church

Museo de las Culturas Aborígenes

The Museo de las Culturas Aborigenes at 5-24 Calle Larga has 15,000 Ecuadorian archaeological pieces, of which 5,000 are on display. 10,000 other pieces are in reserve, and can be visited by appointment..

The founder of the Aboriginal Cultures Museum is Juan Cordero Íñiguez, a former Minister of Education and native Cuencano, who started collecting artifacts in the 1970s. In 2002, the museum opened on Calle Larga, in a 100+ year old house which used to serve as a stable and inn , which housed persons bringing produce to Cuenca from the countryside. It has thick, adobe walls and a tile roof with a wrought-iron huaischapai cross.

It houses artifacts from the Paleolithic and Neolithic eras; and the Valdivia, Panzaleo, Puruhá, Cazhaloma, Tacalzhapa, Guangala, Jama Coaque, Tolila, Machalilla, Narrio, and Incan cultures.

The exhibits are arranged by time, ranging from the stone-age, dating from as far back as 13,000 BCE, to the pre-colonial period; and geography, focusing on major cultures from the Pacific Coast, the Andes, and the Amazon Basin. The collection holds pottery, jewelry, and carved figures from more than 10 distinct Ecuadorian cultures. It also includes examples of Incan pottery.

There is a very helpful self-guided museum guide, which will lead you through the 15 rooms. My photos show pieces with distinct artistry I love. The guide can give you very detailed and thorough information.

Bead necklaces and an oyster shell necklace.

In the overall scheme of things, the Incan civilization was relatively recent. (1438-1533) In the 15 chronologically arranged rooms in this museum, you do not come to the Incan culture until the 14th room.

The 15th and last room displays the use of metals which came about with the beginning of the arrival of the Spaniards.

The museum has one of the very best gift shops in all of Cuenca.

Casa de los Murales

12-40 Simon Bolivar

This house with the golden facade was completed in 1917, but it’s construction took more than 20 years. Since then, it has been the home of the lawyer Aurelio Aguilar Vásquez; headquarters of the Municipal Union, and is now the Multiple Center, providing medical assistance to Municipal employees. It was restored by the City of Cuenca in 2017.

The restoration was done in two phases. Phase One was the restoration of the old house. Phase Two was the construction of a modern three story building in the rear where there used to be an orchard for the house. That part is now used for the medical facilities.

Photo taken from the second floor looking down. There is a large space in the lobby which is made of “pisos de huesos”. Floors of bones. There were 1,600 pieces of bone in the original, many of which needed to be replaced.

Restored wallpaper of French origin.

Many of the walls had been painted white. Surveys were made, and old photos were used to discover the murals. Twelve murals were recovered.

View from the balcony of Calle Simon Bolivar, and Santo Cenaculo.

The outer façade is made of brick, and the internal walls are made of adobe, brick, and bahareque.

Casa de los Arcos

Gustavo Montesinos built this seven story house in 1915 for his wife Isabel González  and family of 12 children.

La Casa de los Arcos graces the banks of the Tomebamba River. In 2011 it was one of the sites for the Cuenca Art Bienal.

The house sits alongside the beautiful 3 de Noviembre path, on the Tomebamba River. I had always thought this was the front door, but Kabir Montesinos told me no, this was the back door, where horses would pull up delivering goods for the household.

The front door to the house was actually entered here, on Tarqui and La Condamine. The house was built from the top floor here, first, and then down seven flights to the river!

This was the front courtyard. The walls are covered with photos of the Montesinos González family  The glass rooftop is relatively new.  Previously, rainwater just fell into the courtyard, and flowed down built-in canals, and out to the river. 

These are some of the canals inside the house used for rainwater.

View from the top of La Condamine and El Vado.

Looking down on the balcony, which is on the fifth level. Many family weddings and festivities took place here.

Kabir Montesinos uncle told him that the children used to take a piece of cardboard, and slide down the stairs –  of all seven floors!

In 1970 the property was acquired by Guillermo Vázquez and Octavio Muñoz. Inside the house is this crypt which keeps Muñoz’s remains. There have been stories of ghosts in the house!

The building was purchased by the University of Cuenca in 2004, and now includes some offices of the University.

East side of the building.

Left photo – Casa del Arcos 1950. Right photo – Raquel Montesinos Gonzalez, on one of the house balconies.

These are some old photos showing the embankment before the house was built, and then afterwards.  It was quite an engineering feat!

This area is called El Barranco del Tomebamba. where there are many beautiful homes built along the river.

Casa de la Lira

Calle La Condamine

The Casa de la Lira is a beautifully restored house on La Condamine Street in the El Vado neighborhood. It possesses elements of both the Colonial and Republican Eras. It is famous for the elegant green glass brick façade, with a very noticeable Lira (Lyre) on the balustrade of the rooftop.

The original house was purchased in 1878 by Rosa Rodriquez. In 1894 Luis Paute Rodriquez bought the house, and in 1935 built the facade that is there now, with the Lira.

The Lira was symbolic of the music and poetry and theatre of the epoch, in support of writers, musicians and artists. There are several houses in Cuenca that display a lira on their façade or somewhere inside, but none of them is as impressive or visible as this one.

The Lira was symbolic of the music and poetry and theatre of the era. Luis Paute constructed a stage for poetry and theatre. Inside this house, a kind of conservatory was established in which piano and other instruments were taught. It also had a concert hall where opera pieces, zarzuelas, classical and popular music concerts were performed.

A photo of the “Lyra” on top of the roof, being restored in 2016.

The most recent renovation was from 2016-2019. There are now large open spaces on both the lower and upper floor. The hopes are to have music performances, and spaces for other performing arts, after covid restrictions have ended.  This is in memoriam of the music and concerts that filled this building long ago.

In 1978 there was a huge fire in the building. Only the very front of the building remained intact.  Wherever possible, those elements have been restored.

During the restoration of the building, several ancient city water canals were uncovered underneath the flooring. These have been carefully restored, and can be seen flowing under the first level of the house.

During the restoration, these colonial era pots were uncovered. They were left in their original state.

The balconies in the front upper level have a wonderful view over the Tomebomba River.

There are tile and river pebble floors in the front hallway. This original restored wallpaper is a juxtaposition to the modern office space. The balconies overlook La Condamine Street, and the Cruz del Vado, one of seven crosses from Colonial Days which delineated the boundaries of the city of Cuenca.

Started by Ecuadorian poet Remigio Crespo Toral, in association with Alfonso Moreno Mora in 1919, the Lira Festival was established in the city at that time, attracting poets and lovers of poetry to a country gathering held annually on the last Saturday in May. The poets would talk about their compositions and award a prize for the best poem. The winner would be gain the temporary name of “vate” (bard, poet) and would be given a laurel crown. The first festivity took place at the Buen Vecino country estate, owned by Remigio Crespo Toral,in May 1919. 

Originally, the Lira Festival was an annual literary event, held in Cuenca between 1919 and 1950, in which poets were awarded for their works. The Festival was re-invigorated in 2011, and was held every two years in November, in Cuenca. The festival is four days of meetings with poets from Ecuador, Mexico, and the South American continent, and there is an award of $30,00 and $5,000 to two selected authors, whose poems have been submitted to the competition. The last festival was held in 2019, which was the 100 year celebration of the inception of the festival.