La Compañía (9:30 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 9:30 a.m.–4 p.m. Sat., 1:30–4 p.m. Sun., $3) is one of the most beautiful churches in the Americas and certainly the most extravagant.
Seven tonnes of gold supposedly ended up on the ceiling, walls, and altars of “Quito’s Sistine Chapel,” which was built by the wealthy Jesuit order between 1605 and 1765.
The church has been restored from the damage caused by the 1987 earthquake and a raging fire in 1996. It is a glorious example of human endeavor but at the same time borders on opulence gone mad.
Even the outside is overwhelming, crammed with full-size statues, busts, and sculpted hearts. The interior has eight side chapels, one of which houses the guitar and possessions of Quito ’s first saint, Santa Mariana de Jesús—her remains are under the main altar. Some of the more expensive relics, including a painting of the Virgin framed with gold and precious stones, are locked away in a bank vault between festivals.
One of the more eye-catching objects in La Compañía is a painting depicting hell, where sinners—each labeled with one of the deadly sins—receive excruciating punishments.
Across Sucre from La Compañía is the Museo Numismático (tel. 2/258-9284, 9 a.m.–1 p.m. and 2–5 p.m. Tues.–Fri., 10 a.m.–1 p.m. and 2–4 p.m. Sat.–Sun., $1), which traces the history of Ecuador ’s various currencies, from shell currency to the adoption of the U.S. dollar. An inflation chart shows just how bad the economic situation used to be, before dollarization stabilized it in the last decade. Also housed here is the national music library, where there are often free concerts in the evenings.
On the opposite side of García Moreno from the museum is the Casa de María Augusta Urrutia (García Moreno 760, between Sucre and Bolívar, tel. 2/258-0107, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Tues.–Sat., 9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. Sun., $2), a wonderfully preserved 19th-century mansion. Doña María passed away in 1987, and her house is a virtual window on the past, with three inner patios and luxurious accoutrements from all over the globe, as well as a gallery of Victor Mideros’s paintings.
Heading east on Sucre brings you to the Casa de Sucre (Venezuela 513 at Sucre), once home to Simón Bolívar’s southern counterpart. The building has been preserved in its original state from the early 1800s, and the collection focuses on military history.