Quito, the capital of Ecuador, was founded in the 16th century on the ruins of an Inca city and stands at an altitude of 2,850 m. Despite the 1917 earthquake, the city has the best-preserved, least altered historic centre in Latin America. The monasteries of San Francisco and Santo Domingo, and the Church and Jesuit College of La Compañía, with their rich interiors, are pure examples of the 'Baroque school of Quito', which is a fusion of Spanish, Italian, Moorish, Flemish and indigenous art.
Quito, the capital of Ecuador, forms a harmonious ensemble sui generis, where the actions of man and nature are brought together to create a work unique and transcendental of its kind. With its historic centre and its buildings the city is an outstanding example of the Baroque school of Quito, a fusion of European and indigenous art.
The city occupies a small basin in the great central plateau formed by the volcano Pichincha, the Puengasi ridge, and ridges formed by spurs from the eastern side of Pichincha. The land upon which Quito is built is uneven and is traversed by two deep ravines (quebradas), one of which is arched over in great part to preserve the alignment of the streets, the drainage of which escapes through a cleft in the ridge northward to the plain of Tumbaco.
Quito (2,850 m above sea level) derives its name from the Quitus, who inhabited the region a long time before the Spanish conquest. In 533 Sebastian Benalcazar took peaceable possession of the native town, which had been successively a capital of the Seyris and the Incas, and in 1541 it was elevated to the rank of a Spanish city.
Its full title was San Francisco del Quito, and it was the capital of the province or presidency of Quito down to the end of Spanish colonial rule. It has suffered repeatedly from earthquakes, the greatest damage occurring from those of 1797 and 1859 but the city has the best preserved and least altered historic centre in Latin America.
The Franciscan Order was the first to establish itself in Quito and immediately started built a monastery which became the centre of education and art with its own schools of painting and sculpture. The Augustinian, Dominicans and Jesuits subsequently shaped the appearance of the city with their monasteries. The monasteries of San Francisco and Santo Domingo and the Church and Jesuit College of La Compañía with their rich interiors are pure examples of the so-called 'Baroque school of Quito', a fusion of Spanish, Italian, Moorish, Flemish and indigenous art. La Compañía is probably the richest church in South America with its golden altar.
The city is in great part laid out in rectangular squares, the streets approximately aligned on the cardinal points of the compass. The houses of Quito are chiefly built in the old Spanish or Moorish style. The building material in general use is sun-dried brick, covered in the better houses with plaster or stucco.
The public buildings are of the heavy Spanish type. Facing on to the principal square are the cathedral, the government palace, the archbishop's palace and the city hall. The finest building in the city is the Jesuit church, the facade of which is covered with elaborate carving. Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC