Hidden Gems: Lesser-Known Features of the Basilica de Voto Nacional in Quito

When exploring the historic heart of Quito, one landmark stands out as an architectural marvel and a testament to the city’s rich heritage: the Basilica del Voto Nacional. While its iconic neo-Gothic facade and towering spires are well-known, there are many hidden gems within the Basilica that even seasoned travelers might overlook. Here’s a guide to uncovering the lesser-known features of this magnificent structure.

1. The Hidden Chapels

Nestled within the vast interior of the Basilica are several chapels, each with its unique charm and history. The Chapels of the Sacred Heart, for instance, feature intricate stained glass windows that depict scenes from Ecuadorian history intertwined with religious iconography. These chapels offer a quiet retreat from the bustling main nave, providing a space for reflection and a closer look at the artistry of the Basilica.

2. The Gargoyles with a Twist

While gargoyles are a common feature in Gothic architecture, the Basilica del Voto Nacional adds a unique twist. Instead of the typical mythical creatures, the gargoyles here are modeled after Ecuadorian animals. From iguanas and tortoises to pumas and monkeys, these stone figures add a local touch to the Gothic design, symbolizing the country’s rich biodiversity.

3. The Panoramic Viewpoints

Most visitors ascend the main towers for breathtaking views of Quito. However, there are lesser-known viewpoints within the Basilica that offer equally stunning panoramas. Climbing the smaller bell towers provides a different perspective of the city and the surrounding Andes mountains. These spots are often less crowded, allowing for a more tranquil experience.

4. The Museum of the Basilica

Located in the lower levels, the Basilica Museum is a treasure trove of religious artifacts, historical documents, and artwork. The museum provides insight into the construction of the Basilica and its role in Quito’s history. Exhibits include original blueprints, photographs from the early 20th century, and a collection of sacred relics.

5. The Secret Passageways

Beneath the Basilica lies a network of passageways and hidden rooms that were once used by priests and workers during the construction and early years of the church. While not all are accessible to the public, guided tours occasionally include these hidden passageways, offering a glimpse into the clandestine operations that supported the Basilica’s day-to-day functions.

6. The Crypt

The crypt of the Basilica is a serene and solemn space that many visitors overlook. It houses the remains of notable Ecuadorian figures and serves as a place of contemplation. The crypt’s peaceful atmosphere, combined with its historical significance, makes it a poignant stop on any tour of the Basilica.

7. The Flora and Fauna of the Basilica Grounds

The grounds surrounding the Basilica are home to a variety of plants and flowers, creating a serene garden environment. This lesser-known feature offers a pleasant respite and a chance to appreciate the natural beauty that complements the architectural grandeur of the Basilica. It’s a perfect spot for a quiet stroll or a moment of relaxation amid the greenery.

Exploring Quito with Insight

Discovering the hidden gems of the Basilica del Voto Nacional adds a deeper layer to any visit to Quito. As you explore, you’ll find that this iconic structure is not just a monument of the past, but a living piece of the city’s vibrant culture and history. For those seeking a more comprehensive experience, joining a Quito tour that includes the Basilica is a fantastic way to uncover these lesser-known features and learn about their significance.

Plan Your Visit

When planning things to do in Quito, make sure to set aside ample time for the Basilica del Voto Nacional. Whether you’re interested in history, architecture, or simply want to enjoy stunning views of Quito, the Basilica has something for everyone. Remember to check the schedule for guided tours, which often include access to areas not open to general visitors.

For a truly enriching experience, consider booking a tour with a knowledgeable guide who can share insights into these hidden gems and other fascinating aspects of Quito’s rich cultural heritage.

By uncovering these lesser-known features, your visit to the Basilica del Voto Nacional will be filled with discoveries that go beyond the ordinary, making your time in Quito truly memorable.

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